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  QUESTION: Harm minimisation procedures for melting lead to make fishing sinkers, 02 Nov 2005, New South Wales Australia

What are the risks to my Children (8mths and 11 years) of lead poisoning by a neighbour who is melting lead to make fishing sinkers near our back fence?
ANSWER: 19 Nov 2005

Dear Ben,

Thankyou for your enquiry. May I apologise for the delay in responding to your email, as we are currently working as a group of volunteers.

It is a definite hazard for your children if they are in the backyard while your neighbour is melting lead because they could be breathing in the fumes. Dust and debris from the lead can also be carried away into your yard, which may contaminate the soil, and thus get into the children's fingers, hands, and toys while they play. Please refer to Fact sheet #6 on our website for tips on how to create barriers and topping up lead contaminated soil: www.lead.org.au/fs/fst6.html

It may be a good idea to test your soil, as living near lead-related industries is hazardous. Harmful exposure from your neighbour's site will be dependent on many factors, such as ventilation technique, melting temperature, total time spent on the practice, and the safety measures used for proper disposal of left over lead. It is advisable that your neighbour obtains professional advice especially regarding proper ventilation, and that he abides by the following precautions in order to avoid harmful contamination of himself and others:

  • Establish airtight physical barriers (e.g plastic sheeting) between work area and entrance doors to residence whilst engaging in lead melting
  • Use a portable air cleaner equipped with a High Efficiency Particle Air (HEPA) filter, and locate cleaner as close to the worktable or bench as possible.
  • Minimize vaporization by operating melters at the lowest temperature. Harmful levels of lead vaporization is believed to occur at elevated temperatures above 1800 degrees (F). Lower temperatures between 700-800 degrees are all that is normally needed to cast lead parts.
  • Keep work area clean (including walls, floors, ceilings, worktables/benches, chairs, shelves, tools etc.).
  • Do not allow the accumulation of dust and dirt. Remove dust and dirt with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter, or wet wipe and/or wet mop the area. Never use a standard home vacuum cleaner.
  • Wash all work clothes separately, and allow the washing machine to cycle through another rinse while empty.
  • Most importantly, never let small children play in or otherwise frequent the work area.

These guidelines may be found at 

[Cottage Industry Causes Acute Lead Poisoning A hobby that grew into a cottage industry produced a case of lead poisoning in one Alaskan adult. The lead poisoning was a direct result of inhaling lead dust and fumes while melting and casting lead. It is important for anyone melting, casting or otherwise handling lead to observe proper procedures for preventing lead exposure and/or poisoning.]

Regards,
Giuseppina Tesoriero
Volunteer Information Officer,
on behalf of Elizabeth O'Brien

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