LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 4 no 1  Summer 1996    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 - Case Studies

by Robin Mosman, The LEAD Group

With ceiling dust tested through LEADLINE showing lead levels of up to 20,000 parts per million (ppm) in urban areas, the fact that many people are opening up ceiling space in their old homes with a variety of renovations underlines the need for greater awareness of this potential source of significant lead contamination. This is especially so when the volumes of dust are so great. A professional ceiling dust remover has reported "more than 200 kg of ceiling dust removed from an inner western suburbs house... and about 800 kg of dust from a Federation-style home in Petersham." (In inner Sydney).

Case A, a teacher, contacted LEADLINE after reading in Sydney’s Child about the dangers of lead in ceiling dust. She and her husband had been renovating their 100 year old house for the previous 3 months, amongst other things pulling down a ceiling. She had been concerned that her child had recently become rather aggressive. She knew of the lead and paint connection, and lead in soil, and had even had soil tested. However, she had not been aware that lead could be present in ceiling dust.

On LEADLINE’s advice she had her 2 year old son’s blood lead level tested. It was 1.4 mol/L (30 g/dL). The child’s bedroom was right under the manhole into the ceiling where - "in the pitched area the dust was knee deep." The mother’s level was 0.96 mol/L (20 g/dL). The father was "too scared to be tested."

The child and his mother moved out of the house immediately while the father put his job on hold to work twelve hours a day completing the renovation. After three months with renovation complete and the house decontaminated, the child’s blood lead level is down to 20 g/dL, the mother’s 10 g/dL.

The next case illustrates the difference that lead-aware house-keeping can make, even during high lead-risk situations such as ceiling demolition, and underlines the value of educating parents about the effective action they can take to protect themselves and their children. This inquirer made a number of calls to LEADLINE to ascertain exactly what she could do in a situation with limited options, and achieved an impressive outcome.

Case B made contact with LEADLINE before commencing renovation as a result of having read the articles on lead in Melbourne’s Child. She decided to have her children’s blood lead levels tested before the renovation as a reference point. They were very low at 0.1 mol/L (2 g/dL).

She "was particularly careful during the renovations - which lasted only 3 months - with hand washing." She was meticulous about washing and wiping surfaces. She kept the children (aged 2.5 and 4 years) away from the area of the house being worked on, and covered floors and furniture with sheets, which she washed frequently. At the end of the renovation, the house was cleaned by a cleaner with a HEPA vacuum cleaner who specialises in cleaning houses for people with allergies. When re-tested at the end of the work, the children’s blood lead levels were the same as they had been at the beginning.

For safe lead dust removal see: www.adra.com.au

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