LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 5 no 3, 1997 ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Ceiling dust & lead poisoning

ADRA (Australian Dust Removalists Association) Incorporated
Link re: lead dust removal

Very small amounts of lead are known to cause serious long term health effects. Children under the age of four are at particular risk because:

  • their increased hand to mouth activity,
  • they absorb more lead than adults and
  • their brain and nervous systems are still developing.

Pregnant women may be at greater risk than other adults due to changes in their bodies during pregnancy. There is also no barrier to lead in the placenta and therefore no protection for the unborn child from lead in the mother’s blood. But, please remember anyone can be lead poisoned.

The roof void area (attic) of many older Australian homes and buildings contains lead dust and other contaminants. This dust is also present in cavity walls and under the floor areas.

This lead dust has built up over many years from many sources including:

  • exhaust emissions from petrol
  • fall out from wood-burning or coal-burning
  • renovations and demolitions in your home or even from neighbouring properties
  • industrial fall-out such as from power stations, incinerators, crematoriums, car repair sites, lead mines and smelters.

The hazard from this dust is influenced not only by the percentage of lead found, but also by the amount of dust present. A small amount of dust with a high percentage of lead MAY be less of a problem than a lower percentage of lead with large amounts of dust. Some houses have had up to 800 kilograms of dust removed from their roof void!

If there's a lot of dust, you will want to have it removed professionally to avoid the possibility of the ceiling collapsing under the weight of it, and the dust spreading throughout the house. The LEAD Group sells DIY-Sampling Lead Lab Analysis Kits which can be used to test the concentration of lead in your ceiling dust, or better still, the amount of lead in a dust wipe on any children's play floor or child-accessible window sill which is underneath any point of ingress of ceiling dust into the living space.

See www.adra.com.au which states that members of the Australian Dust Removalists Association typically charge around $10 per square metre to professionally remove ceiling dust. If there are no ADRA members in your area, ask any ceiling dust removal contractors if they follow the ADRA "Code of Practice", and if so, ask them to apply to join ADRA so that the Global Lead Advice and Support Service can then refer inquirers to ADRA members in each state.

There are two studies online that have measured the amounts of various toxic substances in Australian ceiling dusts:

Ceiling Dust: A Potential Urban Environmental Problem and
Ceiling (attic) dust; a "museum" of contamination and potential hazard

This dust in your roof void does NOT pose a risk if ceilings, cornices and ceiling roses are in good repair. In fact the dust is better left untouched if there is no "leakage" of dust into living spaces. The exception is if the dust is to be disturbed.

The risk of contaminating your living space with dust is increased if you are:

  • renovating your home in ways which will involve the demolition of ceilings or cavity walls
  • adding a second storey extension
  • putting in an attic ladder installing insulation or
  • installing a skylight or intruding into the roof space in any way.

The cost of decontamination clean up costs much more than the cost of dust removal, plus puts your health and the health of any other occupants (especially children) very much at risk.

You need to take care not to poison your family or contaminate your home.

Tell-tale black dust trails near cracks or cornices are a sign of deterioration of the "seal" of the ceiling Ceiling roses inolder homes can also be a source of dust. They have vents behind the decorative rose which would allow the circulation of air when gas lighting was used. Water damage may also allow dust to enter living spaces or even for a ceiling to collapse.

WARNING!! We do not recommend do-it-yourself ceiling dust removal as it is dirty, dangerous and requires special equipment.

However if you do attempt to do this work yourself or if you have someone do it for you, it is important to remember the following:

The worker must enter through the roof by removing the tiles - never through the manhole due to the risk of contamination to the living spaces.

Children, pregnant women and pets should be kept away from the work area and should not return to the site until clean up is finished.

The worker should always wear a respirator mask marked with an AS 1716 endorsement (a P1 or P2 rated mask will protect from toxic dusts). Cheap paper masks will afford NO protection against fine lead particles. Ensure that the mask is snug on the face and men with facial hair should wear full face respirators. Wear protective clothing (long sleeves and pants) which do not catch dust or flakes in pockets or cuffs etc. Disposable overalls and plastic boot covers which can be taken off when leaving the void and placed in a plastic bag for disposal are a good idea.

Be aware of electrical wires and do not use sharp metal tools, even to take a dust sample.

Under no circumstances use your home vacuum cleaner to clean up leaded dust. Most domestic machines are not fitted with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter and therefore the lead particles will travel through the machine and re-contaminate the area.

The Global Lead Advice & Support Service can advise you as to the hire of the correct equipment or better still, companies who can do the work for you.

Personal hygiene is very important. Worker should wash their hands regularly and shower at the completion of each work day and especially before coming into contact with young children. Even small amounts of dust transported on work clothes can pose a serious risk for young children.

Work clothes should be washed separately in a high phosphate detergent (e.g. liquid sugar soap) Then rinse out the machine before next use to avoid contaminating other clothes.

There should be no smoking whilst the work is undertaken as the fine lead particles will settle on hands and the face. The burning end of the cigarette will transform the lead dust in the air and on the cigarette into a dangerous lead fume.

After completion of the work, wipe all hard surfaces (including window sills, skirting boards and picture rails) and any furniture with a damp cloth using a high phosphate detergent solution.

The collected dust should be double bagged in heavy duty plastic bags and sealed. Dispose of the collected dust at a waste facility approved by the NSW Environment Protection Authority - ring Pollution Line 131 555 for further details.

Domestic amounts of waste dust can be recycled (for the lead content) at the secondary lead smelter at Alexandria, telephone 9516 6230.

This fact sheet was produced with the assistance of the NSW Government.

Also see: Ceiling Dust Slide show  - Lead In Ceiling Dust  - Lead paint & ceiling dust management - how to do it lead-safely

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The LEAD Group Inc. Fact Sheet Index

NSW Lead Reference Centre and NSW Government Publications On this site

  1. About the Global Lead Advice and Support Service (GLASS)

  2. Main Sources of Lead

  3. How Would You Know If You or Your Child Was lead poisoned?

  4. Lead aware housekeeping

  5. Ceiling dust & lead poisoning

  6. Is your yard lead safe?

  7. Health Impacts of lead poisoning

  8. Rotary Questionnaire

  9. Lead poisoned Pets and Your Family

  10. Childhood Lead Poisoning Risk Factor Questionnaire

  11. Is Your Child Safe From Lead? - What Can You Do About Lead?

  12. Lead in Drinking Water in Australia

  13. Have We Really Resolved The Lead Issue?

  14. The Importance of the Availability of "Spot Tests" for Lead in Paint

  15. Pregnant or Planning a Pregnancy

  16. Breastfeeding and Lead

  17. Lead in breast milk

  18. Beware The Lead In Lead Lighting

  19. Renting and Lead

  20. What to do if you have too much lead in your tank water

  21. Lead Contamination in Stormwater

  22. Contamination At Shooting Ranges

  23. Banned: Leaded Wick Candles

  24. Lead, Ageing and Death

  25. Metal miniatures: How to minimise the risks of lead poisoning and contamination

  26. 7 Point Plan for the MANAGEMENT OF LEAD by Australian parents and carers

  27. Countries where Leaded Petrol is Possibly Still Sold for Road Use, As at 17th June 2011

  28. Lead Poisoning And The Brain - Cognitive Deficits And Mental Illness

  29. Facts and Firsts of Lead

  30. Lead mining royalties by state and territory

  31. Lead Mining Stewardship - Grey Lead and the Role of The LEAD Group

  32. Preventative Strategies of The LEAD Group

  33. What do Doctors need to do about Lead?

  34. A Naturopath's Experience Of Lead & People With Diagnosed Mental Illness

  35. Case File: Helping Manage Australian Lead in Petrol - How GLASS Works

  36. Glass Web & Service-Users, Experts & Volunteers, by Country; Countries with Leaded Petrol for Road Use & Worst Pollution

  37. Lead in ceiling dust

  38. Lead paint & ceiling dust management - how to do it lead-safely

  39. Esperance parliamentary inquiry follow-up factsheet: Where to from Here??

  40. Broken Hill lead miners factsheet 1893 with Note 20081015

  41. Helping a Doctor Help 35,000 Lead-Poisoned People Around the Lead Smelter at La Oroya in Peru
    Ayuda a un doctor que ayuda 35,000 personas envenenadas por plomo alrededor de la fundidora de plomo en la Oroya-Peru

  42. Fact sheet for Australian toy importers and traders

  43. Iron Nutrition & Lead Toxicity
    Informe de Acciones – Hierro y Plomo en la Nutrición

  44. Sanitarium-Are You getting Enough Iron

  45. Do-It-Yourself-Lead-Safe-Test-Kits-flyer

  46. Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  47. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to both adults and children

  48. Lead Exposure & Alzheimer’s Disease: Is There A Link?

  49. In CHINA - Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  50. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you take advantage of the Australian government's Energy Efficient Homes Package: Insulation Program

  51. Alperstein et al Lead Alert - A Guide For Health Professionals 1994

  52. Ceiling Dust WorkCover Guide Lee Schreiber Final Nov 1999

  53. What can I do about climate change AND lead?

  54. The Need for Expert Clinical Assessments in Diagnosis Of Heavy Metal Poisoning

  55. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you have insulation installed

  56. Thirty Thought-Starters on Ceiling Void Dust in Homes

  57. Pectin: Panacea for both lead poisoning and lead contamination

  58. Nutrients that reduce lead poisoning June 2010

  59. Lead poisoning and menopause

  60. Fact sheet For Schoolkids From Professor Knowlead About Lead

  61. Prevention of Exposure to Lead at Work in Indonesia

  62. Mencegah kontak dengan timbal di tempat kerja di Indonesia

  63. How to Protect Your Family from Lead in Indonesia

  64. Bagaimana melindungi keluargamu dari timbal di Indonesia

  65. Cigarette Smoking & Lead Toxicity
     صحيفة معلومات: التدخين والتسمم بالرصاص

  66. Medical Evaluation Questionnaire For Occupational Lead Exposure

  67. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to children

  68. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to adults

  69. Biosolids used as fertilizer in China and other countries

  70. What are the lead poisoning risks of a lead pellet, bullet or shot lodged in the body?

  71. Alcohol’s link to higher lead and iron levels

  72. USA Case Definition of Adult (including Occupational) & Child Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLL)

  73. Low Level Lead Exposure Harms Children - A Renewed Call for Primary Prevention

  74. Occupational Health & Safety Fact Sheet Dangers of lead for roofers

  75. Let’s Make Leaded Petrol History - Let’s Make Leaded Gasoline History

  76. Lead, Your Health & the Environment. Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Korean, Macedonian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese 

  77. Lead Safe Housekeeping

  78. Old Lead Paint

  79. Working safely with lead

  80. A Renovator's Guide To The Dangers Of Lead (Brochure 30 pages)

  81. A Guide For Health Care Professionals (Brochure 34 pages)

  82. A Guide To Keeping Your Family Safe From Lead (Brochure 20 pages)

  83. Lead Hazard Management In Children's Services (Brochure 15 pages)

  84. A Guide To Dealing With Soil That Might Be Lead-Contaminated

  85. Exposure Assessment: Lead Neurotoxicity - Is the Center for Disease Control's goal to reduce lead below 10 µg/dl blood in all children younger than 72 months by 2010, good enough?


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Last Updated 01 May 2014
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