LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 4 no 4 Spring 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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Lead Abatement: A New Industry for Australia

by Robin Mosman, Information and Referral Project Officer
NSW Community Lead Advisory Service

One of the significant difficulties being encountered by many people dealing with lead issues in Australia at this time is the lack of lead-aware and competent tradespeople to abate their lead problems. The lead abatement industry has been well established in America for years, but in spite of rising lead awareness in the community, was virtually non-existent in Australia, until August 1995, when Lead Abatement Industries (Australia) Pty Ltd was launched by licensed builder Richard Shillcock.

Richard was introduced to the dangers of lead in 1994 through a friend of one of his staff, Brad Mercer, another licensed builder. The friend, Jason Bawden-Smith, an environmental health officer who’s Master’s degree had focused on lead and who was preparing to do his PhD on lead also, was working at the time with the Public Health Unit of the South Sydney Area Health Service. He was keenly aware of the lack of services to deal with lead-contaminated premises.

Richard and Brad spent considerable time learning about the lead issue and exploring the potential business opportunities. They realised that there was insufficient information available in Australia on lead abatement, and so in April 1995 they travelled to Maryland, USA to attend a Lead Abatement Contractors course. On completing the course, they both travelled extensively through the north eastern states of the USA to gain further information and experience, speaking with policy advisers, local government managers, public health and housing officials and lead based paint contractors. In Maryland and Massachusetts they worked "hands-on" with several lead-abatement contractors.

They returned to Sydney with knowledge and experience, but it was August before an opportunity came to put it to use. The opportunity came through The LEAD Group's LEADLINE, established in June that year as a community referral service.

A couple whose home had been found to be badly lead-contaminated, causing high lead levels in their young child, had sold the house and bought another old house which would need extensive renovation and extension. When this house was found to contain leaded paint also, the couple contacted LEADLINE for advice, and was referred to the new company. It was, and still is, the only company in Australia to which LEADLINE could have given a referral for this total lead abatement work.

"Lead abatement is really a building job, not a painting job" says Richard, although one of the directors of LAI is a master painter. To properly and safely remove leaded paint from a window, for example, the window first needs to be removed by a carpenter. Services provided by LAI include lead-based paint removal, paint encapsulation, paint enclosure; lead-contaminated soil removal; specialised cleaning; renovations, alterations and additions; lead-specific building maintenance; steel structure, rust and paint removal; lead dust removal; ceiling dust removal; asbestos dust removal; and asbestos roofing refurbishment.

In December 1995 the company purchased a very sophisticated dry paint removal machine. This vacuum machinery has been utilised successfully to remove leaded paint in a school and a child-care centre, as proven by clearance testing. The power of the vacuum enables paint to be removed very safely due to the total suppression of dust. The effectiveness of the vacuum is such that the operator does not require protection.

The company is also involved in leaded ceiling dust removal with the Sydney Airport Noise Insulation Project.

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Last Updated 27 November 2012
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