Very small amounts of lead are known to
cause serious long term health effects. Children under the age of four are at particular
increased hand to mouth activity,
absorb more lead than adults and
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
mothers 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:
emissions from petrol
- fall out
from wood-burning or coal-burning
and demolitions in your home or even from neighbouring properties
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.
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
Dust: A Potential Urban Environmental Problem and
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:
your home in ways which will involve the demolition of ceilings or cavity walls
- adding a
second storey extension
in an attic ladder installing insulation or
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
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
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
Domestic amounts of waste dust can be
recycled (for the lead content) at the secondary lead smelter at Alexandria, telephone
This fact sheet was produced with the
assistance of the NSW Government.
Ceiling Dust Slide show -
Lead In Ceiling Dust
- Lead paint &
ceiling dust management - how to do it lead-safely
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