Lead Aware Times

Lead Aware Times Volume 1 No. 1 ( ISSN 1440-4966)

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A Low-Lead Olympic Games

By Elizabeth O'Brien, Manager, and Lois Johnson, Project Officer,
Lead Advisory Service NSW

The following products form an important part of a lead minimisation strategy for the Olympic Games and should each be dealt with in the Sydney Organising Committee’s waste strategy and in its purchasing specification policies.

Building, Construction and Related Products

  • Ecology Line non-leaded PVC power cables by Pirelli should be specified, unless another manufacturer introduces non-leaded power cables.
  • Building products made of re-cycled pre-1970 painted wood, e.g. chipboard, should be forced to pass a specifically devised standard which limits the heavy metal content, especially the lead content.
  • Building products for re-use, which are taken from pre-1970 buildings, should be stripped of lead paint before re-use, so that the lead is taken out of circulation – Olympics induced renovations provide a good opportunity for creating a safe re-use building materials industry.
  • Incandescent light bulbs contain lead contacts; so fluorescent lighting should be specified in any new buildings/ renovations. Also fluorescent light bulbs can be recycled (both the glass and the gas) by a machine used by several inner Melbourne Councils. Unless someone has developed a machine to recycle both the glass and metal out of incandescent light bulbs, then their use should be discouraged.
  • Telephone cabling consists of PVC, which normally contains lead; and copper, the smelting of which emits lead. The use of PVC and copper should be absolutely minimised and Telstra should be required to:
  1. use non-leaded PVC
  2. recyclable cabling.
  • Mirrors must comply with Australian standards for heavy metal content of mirror backing paints. Currently, many imported mirrors do not comply.
  • Pewter can contain lead – only non-leaded pewter should be permitted.
  • Similarly non-leaded optical glass should be specified (Canon has recently introduced this.)
  • Pool cue chalk should be specified lead-free.

Souvenirs and Related Products

  • Packaging inks, dyes and glues as well as packaging plastics should all be specified to eliminate toxic heavy metals.
  • Ceramic ware specifications should refer to the Australian Standard regarding metals.
  • T-shirt transfers should be specified lead-free.
  • Barium crystal is less toxic than lead crystal and should be specified for any crystal ware to be purchased.
  • Tanneries emit a range of heavy metals including lead so leather products should be discouraged.
  • Any other lead containing product for which there is a less toxic alternative should be banned eg Olympics paraphernalia such as painted china (lead free paints should be specified), paperweights, lamp stands/lamp stand weights, models for collectors, book marks, mineral specimens, ceramic tile mosaics, metal work/glass work crafts, door stops, leadlight, etc (all should be specified lead free).


Private vehicles create massive amounts of waste for their mining, smelting, production, use and disposal phases – so a waste minimisation strategy will add support to the car-use reduction strategy already being devised. Development of a fully recyclable car should be fast-tracked for use as taxis, for officials, media and athletes, if cars are to be allowed at all.

Competitors' Products

Tungsten bullets and shot should be specified for the shooting sports instead of lead bullets as lead bullets will create a great deal of contaminated soil at the firing range.

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Last Updated 19 April 2012
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