by Elizabeth O'Brien, Manager, Global Lead Advice & Support Service (GLASS) run by The LEAD Group Inc.
Update 30 October 2014 [LID 9435]
Despite all the Australian literature referring to pre-1970 homes and offices as being the problem, it was only in 1997 that the allowable level of lead in residential and commercial paint in Australia went down to 0.1% which is still higher than the US 1978 standard of less than 0.06% lead.
Non-residential paint was only controlled for its lead content since 1st January 2010. So, for anyone working on the paint on a pre-1997 home or a pre-2010 building, the best thing to do is to ASSUME THE PAINT IS LEADED and deal with it in a lead-safe way. As your company policy is to test for lead before deciding on the renovation method, then the Lead Check colour-change kits available in good hardware stores and paint trade centres will let you know whether the paint contains more than 0.5% lead. If your store doesn't stock Lead Check kits, you may need to tell the store manager that the importers/wholesalers include:
Once you've either assumed or found that the paint is leaded, don't disperse it as fumes or dust or even by water-blasting unless the debris is vacuum extracted, as with a Blue Vac available for hire from Let’s Clean in Sydney. The next step is, ask the doctor to test everyone in the painting/building work team for their blood lead levels, especially if the other non-painting team members HAVE to be in the building while renovating one cordoned-off room at a time. Office staff or contractors certainly can't use any room that is actually being renovated. Children and pregnant women or those wishing to conceive should never be involved in the work or exposed to chemicals used in the renovation.
In Primary Prevention of Childhood Lead Poisoning — The Only Solution (available by subscription only )By John F. Rosen, M.D., and Paul Mushak, Ph.D. N Engl J Med 2001; 344:1470-1471 May 10, 2001, you can read why full lead paint removal is the best public health policy and best for all the future residents/tenants of a home, childcare centre or other building.
Their 2-page article states, inter alia:
“For the primary prevention of lead poisoning from paint, we recommend permanent abatement -- that is, the complete removal or replacement of lead paint before a child lives in a home.”
Full article available here: http://www.nmic.org/nyccelp/medical-studies/Rosen-Mushak-editorial-NEJM.htm
If the building owner can't afford full paint removal, then lead-safe paint preparation is the minimum requirement to manage the paint, ie wet-scraping (spray surface with a water spray bottle held in one hand then scrape paint onto plastic sheeting taped or held down all the way around the edges), wet-sanding (using water spray bottle again and wet-and-dry sandpaper or sanding sponge intended to be used wet), then sugar-soap and then wipe down with water. After this preparation, the new paint should adhere as long as you have also solved any damp or mould problems too. Even when over-coated with well-adhering non-leaded paint, the old lead paint underneath is still a potential hazard down the track when it needs repainting again. For full instructions, products, services and processes for lead-safe paint preparation or full lead paint removal or ceiling dust removal, please see:
"Lead Alert - The Six Step Guide To Painting Your Home" at
[Your local Council or your hardware or trade paint store or any paint contractor or Master Painters Australia or the Australian Paint Manufacturers Federation (ph 1800807568) or the federal Department of the Environment’s Community Information Unit (ph 1800803772) should be able to provide anyone who asks, with (multiple) free hard copies of The Six Step Guide colour booklet.]
If someone is being paid to do lead risk work (eg managing paint or ceiling dust containing more than 1% lead) in NSW, they should read the: “Guide for applicants for lead notifications” - January 2012 at http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/formspublications/publications/Documents/Lead_risk_work_notifications_guideline_3040.pdf
Notification to WorkCover is required within seven days of the determination that the work is lead risk work. Notification is required to be made to WorkCover on a day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, public holiday or bank holiday. If it has been determined that it is lead risk work or if it is unable to be determined whether it is lead risk work, the employer must complete the: “Notification of lead risk work: Form”, at http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/formspublications/publications/Documents/Notification-of-lead-risk-work-form-3631.pdf
There are some useful recommendations in the following links for Queensland contractors who are required to work with lead re:- “Lead: Working with lead-based paint; Lead paint removal/residential buildings audit checklist; and Lead audit checklist” at:
NSW state government has published the following: "Lead Safe: A Renovators Guide to the Dangers of Lead" – which is available on-line at http://www.lead.org.au/fs/lead_safe/A_Renovator_Guide_To_The_Dangers_Of_Lead_Lead_Safe.pdf
The NSW Environment Protection Authority has neglected to web-publish its excellent "Lead Safe Fact Sheet - Lead in Ceiling Dust", so The LEAD Group has also web-published it at http://www.lead.org.au/fs/fst37.html.
US Government websites have much useful information on lead paint including: US HUD Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control - LINKS to Resources incl: About Lead Paint (Lead Info Pamphlet); HUD's Office Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control Strategic Plan; Lead Regulations; American Healthy Homes Survey: Lead and Arsenic Findings, at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/healthy_homes
HUD publications include the world’s-best-practice 874-page “bible” of lead paint management guidelines: Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing, 2nd edition, July 2012, downloadable from http://www.hud.gov/offices/lead/lbp/hudguidelines/index.cfm
US EPA WEB-PORTAL: LEAD: eg. Learn about lead; Protect your Family; Before you buy or rent a home built before 1978; Test your Home; Renovate Right for Contractors & Trainers; EPA Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Program; Home Danger Zone Finder, at http://www2.epa.gov/lead#info
Australia's leading company for full lead paint removal, Let's Clean (in Sydney), can organise hire, lease or contracting of water rinsing equipment (called "Blue Vac" System) and sale of Heritage No 1 poultice for removal of lead paint and sale of Soy-Gel chemical stripper for removal of acrylic paint that might be on top of lead paint, and hire of a Speedheater infrared gun for direct stripping of lead paint eg from woodwork. (Chemical stripping is not recommended for woodwork, as lead from the stripped paint may be released from the woodgrain when the wood is sanded prior to re-coating). See:
Other full paint removal products & equipment include:
To hire a painter with Lead Paint Management Training, see http://www.painters.edu.au;/ INSERT YOUR POSTCODE THEN CLICK LEAD PAINT MANAGEMENT, AT http://www.painters.edu.au/Find-A-Painter.htm – but if that provides no one in your area, please see the very old list at http://www.lead.org.au/paintersall.html or in some states you can phone the Master Painters Australia (MPA) in your state to ask them to refer you to a lead-trained painter in your area. One painter who has done lead paint removal in many parts of Australia is listed on The LEAD Group’s new Lead Safe World website at http://www.leadsafeworld.com/partners/lead-safe/
See other useful guidance on hiring contractors and on training at:
See information on the hazards of cavity dust and when it should be removed, at:
It is simply not recommended that you do your own ceiling dust removal so please contact a member of the Australian Dust Removalists Association (ADRA) - see http://www.adra.com.au/camcos.html - who can carry out the work in compliance with the ADRA "Code of Practice" - see http://www.adra.com.au/cop.html - and the "GUIDANCE NOTE FOR CEILING DUSTS CONTAINING LEAD" – previously at http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/NR/rdonlyres/C2C40ECC-4F0F-4CAB-B865-4E1B4D808C3C/0/ceiling_dust_containing_lead_guidance_note_4955.pdf - by NSW WorkCover Authority, now at http://www.adra.com.au/WorkCover_NSW_Ceiling_Dust_Guidance_Note_200609.pdf
If you have an old building then it's a pretty safe assumption that the paint will be leaded and that soil and dust will consequently be lead contaminated from previous flaking or chalking paint or from paint removal or release of building cavity dust during demolition etc. So testing for lead is probably an unnecessary expense prior to renovating unless you need to convince someone to use lead-safe renovation techniques or that your sub-contractors are not responsible for any historical lead contamination of the building and surrounds.
But AFTER you have managed your lead paint and cavity dust, THEN is an excellent time to test the dust and soil to determine if further lead-contaminated dust clean-up or soil management is necessary, and this should be done prior to young children (or couples wishing to conceive) or pets using the renovated areas. Please see details of The LEAD Group's excellent DIY-sampling for home lead assessment kits at http://www.leadsafeworld.com/solutions/lead-group-diy-sampling-lab-analysis-lead-test-kits/ and order online by secure Paypal payment, or phone and order a kit today.
Anyone involved in the work should ask the doctor for a follow-up blood lead test a couple of weeks into the work or at the end of the work if the renovation period is short, to determine that their blood lead level has not gone up as a result of non-lead-safe practices.
Finally, please become a consumer who demands more information and warning labels eg about the dangers of lead paint, in the paint preparation section of your hardware store and especially on products like sandpaper, sanders, heatguns, flameguns etc - all the things you can poison yourself with and contaminate a home with. You can phone the Community Information Unit in Canberra on 1800803772, to request the booklet: "Lead Alert - The Six Step Guide To Painting Your Home" to be sent for FREE to your store or all your paint sub-contractors! If you would like to refer other people to this Info Pack, it is online at http://www.lead.org.au/fs/fst38.html
Good luck with the work.
Manager, Lead Safe World Project
(LSWP) – launched 26th October 2013 during the WHO Inaugural International
Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (20th-26th October 2013)
Lead Advisor, LEAD Group test
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Updated 30 October 2014