Back in 1984 the South Australian government realised that there was a problem with airborne lead dust affecting the health of people living near the lead mine in Port Pirie and needed to find a way of removing as much of the lead dust from houses and residential areas as possible.
At the time, Elite Carpet Cleaning was not present in South Australia, but was nonetheless contacted by the SA government and took part in trials of various carpet, upholstery and floor cleaning systems to determine which combination of processes and chemicals was the most effective at removing the lead residue. A number of different cleaning companies were invited to take part in the trials and the Elite system was determined to be the most efficient at removing any lead present. During the trial one of the government chemists helped Elite fine tune the chemical formulation, and this formulation is exactly the same as the one used today (the only difference is a change in the fragrance).
Since then much more information has come to light about the damage lead poisoning can do, particularly to young children, where it can affect brain growth and function.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the lead issue only relates to obvious sites like the lead mining operations in Port Pirie, but the lead threat is present in many older houses around Australia and one of the biggest issues is home renovators stripping off old lead-based paint using heat stripping techniques. This releases lead fumes into the room which can impact anyone present either during the work or afterwards.
Gary Pracy, currently operator of the Elite franchise in Camden and Wollondilly south west of Sydney, was closely involved in the South Australian lead cleanup when he ran the elite franchise in Adelaide back in the 80s, and he still gets referrals from the LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design Group) action group where people have identified lead contamination in their homes and need this removed.
Originally working as an electrician in the coal mining industry in Camden NSW, he was one of the first workers to be put off in 1983 when demand for coal slumped as the Japanese steel industry went through a slowdown and, finding it hard to get work locally, he moved to Adelaide to take up an Elite franchise there. He has been a franchisee with the company ever since.
In 1987, with his wife wanting to return to Camden, his brother-in-law took over the Adelaide business and Gary and his wife moved back to Camden and started up an Elite franchise there.
Around 80% of the work they do is residential, although they do quite a lot of specialised upholstery cleaning work, some of which is for large clients like David Jones in the Sydney CBD.
Gary has noticed a few trends over the last few years…
“People are still putting new carpet into their homes, but there’s less and less carpet going into living areas, although it’s still very common in bedrooms.” says Gary. “Even where people choose not to carpet a living area, they’ll often put a rug in for warmth, which is fine with us, as we’re getting a lot of rug cleaning jobs now.”
Gary also warns renovators and buyers of new carpet against cheap backing or underlay,
“We’re noticing a problem with carpets that have a cheap corn starch based backing – it’s not strong enough to hold flat on the carpet and so carpets using this type of backing are going out of shape easily. We recommend you use a good quality hessian to back your carpets, which will always give you a better result.” he says.
When he’s not helping people with their carpets and upholstery, Gary enjoys watching motorsport at nearby Oran Park and at the Western Sydney Dragway, and remembers watching Peter Brock race at Oran Park in the late 60s, and when he was living in Adelaide as well. He’s never been tempted to race the cars though,
“A friend of mine was keen to get a ride with Peter Brock around the track. Peter couldn’t do it so Alan Jones said he’d take him. When he got out of the car after a few laps he didn’t look too good – he’s been pressing hard on his imaginary brake pedals in the passenger seat all the way around as Jones took the car for a blast. So I’m much happier just watching.” says Gary.