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The Lead Education and Abatement Design Group
Working to eliminate lead poisoning globally and to protect the
environment from lead in all its uses: past, current and new uses
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Council LEAD Project NSW

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A Tool Kit for making your community safe from lead

August 2002





Why should Councils be Concerned about Lead?

About the Council LEAD Project

How to Use this Tool Kit: A 3-Step Guide to a Lead-Safe Local Community

List of Resources Related to the Introduction


This Tool Kit has been produced by the Council LEAD Project NSW with the support of NSW Environmental Trust.

Thanks go to The LEAD Group Inc., for hosting the project, including voluntary management by The LEAD Group Committee. Special acknowledgment goes to Patricia Parkinson for putting this tool kit together, to Carol Bodle, Colin Menzies and Elizabeth O’Brien for lay-out, feedback and editing and to David Ratcliffe for designing and maintaining the CLP website.

Special thanks to the members of the Council LEAD Project Steering Committee for their valuable support, and contributions to the project:
Robert Verhey, Local Government and Shires Associations (LGSA) of NSW; Carol Bodle, The LEAD Group Committee and CTI Consultants Pty Ltd; Corrie Guillarte, WorkCover Authority NSW; Mark Oakwood, Total Environment Centre (TEC); Derek Mullins, Planning NSW; Jim Sullivan, Lake Macquarie City Council; Rosemary Ayoub, The LEAD Group Committee; Graeme Kelly, Southern Branch Manager, Federated Municipal and Shire Council Employee's Union of Australia.

Thank you also to all the members of the Reference Group: Peter Bourke, North Sydney Council; Grahame Collier, EPA NSW; David Eckstein, Jade Herriman & Steve Blaydon, Leichhardt Municipal Council; Steve Toohey, Inner Metropolitan Regional Organisation of Councils (IMROC) and Manager, Monitoring Service, Marrickville Municipal Council; Prof Chris Winder, Department of Safety Science, University of NSW; Dr Kelvin Wooller, NSW WorkCover; Michelle Calvert, Vice President, The LEAD Group Committee.

Special thanks to all the New South Wales Local Councils who inspired the Council LEAD Project, in particular, by completing the initial lead and councils survey.

Council LEAD Project NSW staff team:

Project Officer: Patricia Parkinson

Project Manager: Elizabeth O’Brien

Project Consultant: Colin Menzies

IT and Office Manager : David Ratcliffe

Administrative Officer: Margaret Johnson

Published by The LEAD Group Inc.

PO Box 161 Summer Hill NSW 2131

Phone 02 9716 0966



ISBN 0-9581677-0-2

Title: Council LEAD Project (NSW) Lead Safety Tool Kit for Councils

Date of Publication: 1 August 2002

ISBN 0-9581677-1-0 (Web Publication).
This Took Kit is web-published at

© The LEAD Group Incorporated

The LEAD Group is pleased to allow this material to be reproduced in whole or in part, provided the meaning is unchanged and its source, publisher and authorship are acknowledged.

Printed by Corporate Documentation Management Pty Ltd (CDM), Rosebery NSW

Disclaimer: The information provided in this document is given in good faith and to the best of our knowledge. Liability for errors and omissions in the contents or any web-link provided is expressly disclaimed.

List of Abbreviations

AECLP Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning
APAS Australian Paint Approval Scheme
BCA Building Code of Australia
CBD central business district
CDC US Centers for Disease Control
CLP Council Lead Project
DCP Development Control Plan
DUAP Department of Urban Affairs and Planning
EHO Environmental Health Officer
EMS Environmental Management System
EP&A Act Environmental Planning and Assessment Act
EPA Environment Protection Authority
ESD ecologically sustainable development
LAS Lead Advisory Service
LASA Lead Advisory Service Australia
LEP Local Environmental Plan
LGA local government area
LGSA Local Government Shires Association
µg/dL micrograms per decilitre
µmol/L micromoles per litre
MPA Master Painters Australia
PCCP Painting Contractors Certification Program
PHU Public Health Unit
SEPP State Environment Planning Policy
TAD Technical Aid to the Disabled
TEC Total Environment Centre
VDU visual display unit


Why should Councils be Concerned about Lead?

Lead is an environmental contaminant, a health risk, and can kill

Lead has been an extremely versatile and useful product since recorded history began. For almost as long, people have been aware that it is a health hazard, but wrongly assumed that only miners and smelter workers were at risk. We now know that the biggest risk to population health is household dust contaminated by lead from older paints, leaded petrol exhausts or lead industries, mines and smelters.

Over 210,000 New South Wales residences each year are estimated to be potentially contaminated with lead paint, dust and soil through home improvement or renovation activity (based on an estimate of one million NSW homes built prior to 1970 and 21% of households undertaking some home improvement activity each year [BIS Shrapnel, 1998])

Children are most at risk, particularly those of crawling age living in pre-1970 houses where leaded paint was almost certainly once used, or in mining or smelter communities.

A major Sydney study found that in inner city suburbs, a quarter of all preschoolers have too much lead in their bodies.

Within a radius of 10km of the Sydney Central Business District (CBD), the latest published survey of prevalence of lead poisoning in children found that 25% of under 5 year old children have a blood lead level above the National Goal of 0.48 micromoles per litre (0.48 µmol/L or 10 µg/dL) (Mira et al., 1996).

In 1993, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) set a National goal for ALL Australians to have a blood lead level below 10 µg/dL (micrograms per decilitre). This is a very small amount - about equivalent to a teaspoon of lead in a swimming pool - but any level of lead in the body causes damage.

New research shows that lead is toxic at levels below our current National Goal level of 10 µg/dL, levels once thought to be safe (Lanphear et al., 2000). Prof John Rosen and Prof Bruce Lanphear have proposed to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that the CDC adopt new action levels beginning at a blood lead level above 5 µg/dL. Australia adopted the 1991 CDC action levels in 1993.

When lead is taken into the body via ingestion or inhalation, it initially attaches to the red blood cells. We naturally replace approximately 20% of these cells every 6-8 weeks, so our bodies expel some of this lead and it passes out of our bodies.

However, it takes roughly 10-12 months to do a ‘complete’ change of the red blood cells, so the body has plenty of time to absorb some lead into its soft tissue such as kidneys and liver. The body treats lead like calcium, depositing some in bones and growing teeth where it has a half life of up to 30 years and can be released into the blood years later.

Lead is a neurotoxin, damaging the nervous system. Lead will do the greatest harm to those of very young age. Young children under the age of four are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning because their brains and nervous system are still developing and they have a high level of hand-to-mouth activity, especially between one and two years of age.

Any lead dust or leaded paint particles lying around are likely to get into their mouths and be ingested. Children also absorb more of any lead they ingest into their bloodstream and other parts of their bodies than adults do - about 50% of swallowed lead is absorbed compared with 8-10% for adults.

A fingernail size piece of lead paint can cause acute lead poisoning.
A square inch of lead paint killed a child in New Zealand in 1995.
There are in NSW over 1 million homes likely to contain lead paint.

  • Pregnant women are also at risk and can put their foetus at risk because lead absorbed into their blood will cross the placenta to the baby. Babies can be born with lead already in their blood. Even where women were exposed to lead well before pregnancy, their babies are at risk because lead stored in their bones can be released into the blood as the foetus needs calcium.
  • Fertile adults are also at risk - women because of the potential danger to a future foetus and men because lead can affect sperm size, number, mutations and motility as well as causing problems with libido.
  • People with high blood pressure are at particular risk because lead can exacerbate hypertension.
  • Menopausal women with past lead exposure are at risk because lead can relocate from storage in bones back into the blood stream during menopause.
  • Older men with past lead exposure are at risk because as they age, lead tends to come out of the bone in the same way that calcium does. Whereas in women this is more pronounced with menopause, in men there is a gradual rise in blood lead level with age. Blood lead levels in men are typically higher than in women due to higher lead exposure earlier in life particularly for people who have worked with lead.

Councils may be liable in relation to lead contamination and poisoning

Councils are entrusted by local communities to act in the community’s best interests. Councils also have the capacity and the powers to influence their community's environmental safety and wellbeing.

"Local Council EHOs should be notified by PHU EHOs of lead exposures which resulted from council premises; or premises or activities regulated by Council. Individual councils have a role in ensuring property contamination that presents a hazard is noted in public records and ensuring that problems are remediated. Local Council EHOs also have a role to play in raising community awareness of lead issues, enforcing environmental regulations, preventing renovation and abatement activities which create community lead hazards. These activities include those of unsafe abrasive blasting, dry power sanding and demolition". [Extract from Investigations of Cases of Elevated Blood Lead Levels, Guideline for Environmental Health Office, Environmental Health Branch, NSW Department of Health, Lead Reference Centre, NSW Environment Protection Authority, November 1997].

Lead poisoning is increasingly becoming a successful cause of legal action.

In the United States of America, on the trail of tobacco litigation, some successful legal actions were recently brought against lead pigment manufacturers and local authorities. Landlords have also been sentenced to the payment of substantial damages on the ground of breach of the 1996 disclosure rule which requires property owners to inform prospective tenants and/or buyers of known lead hazards in a property. [See AECLP and Sue Lead Industry websites in Related Resources list.]

In France, the Paris City Council has been the object of a legal action by an "association of families of victims of lead poisoning" as a result of renovations undertaken by the Council and which led to the lead poisoning of some 60 children living in the building.

In Australia, the legal framework that would allow actions from lead poisoned victims is not yet in place. However there are signs of change, such as the precedent established in a decision of a 1999 NSW Residential Tribunal The Tribunal found a landlord liable and awarded damages for economic loss when the tenants had to move from a house with peeling lead paint.

With mounting evidence of the health damage resulting from lead poisoning, and in the light of the increased environmental responsibility and public liability borne by local authorities, it is legitimate for councils to seriously consider their potential liability in relation to lead.

The issue of council liability is essentially two-fold (Bawden-Smith, 1997):

  • liability to persons affected by lead poisoning as a result of development approved by councils
  • liability to persons affected by lead poisoning as a result of exposure from their presence on premises owned or operated by council.

In relation to the first category, the NSW legislative framework puts the onus on councils to investigate any potential land contamination when considering a development application involving change of use or rezoning. The Contaminated Land Management Act, 1997, also gives councils responsibility for the management of contaminated land that does not pose a significant risk of harm to human health or the environment Councils. (for more details, see the factsheet on Outdoor Shooting, in part 2 of this tool kit)

The latter category includes both Council workers involved in the maintenance of the buildings or infrastructure and the occupants and visitors to the building.

This is particularly important for infrastructure frequented by children, such as playgrounds and preschools.

Councils could be found liable on the grounds of negligence under Common Law. Liability would then depend on a Plaintiff establishing that the Council owed him or her a duty of care.

Another potential ground of action against councils is breach of statutory obligations.

  • Occupational Health and Safety regulations and WorkCover guidelines require employers to provide workers with a safe working environment. Failure to do so could result in prosecution and hefty fines (such was the case recently with the NSW Police Service being found liable for the lead poisoning of a number of officers while training at a shooting range - see the Sydney Morning Herald, 12 March 2002, "Police Service facing $820,000 fine over lead poisoning at firing range"). This point is developed further in Step 2 of this Tool Kit;
  • Councils have general environmental obligations under the Local Government Act 1993, but also more specific obligations, relating to matters to take into consideration when exercising powers, to grant approval to development applications under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 (EP&A Act). Section 79C of the EP&A Act provides that "in determining an application, a consent authority is to take into consideration"…"(b) the likely impacts of that development, including environmental impacts on both the natural and built environments, and social and economic impacts in the locality" ….and "(e) the public interest"
  • Councils also have obligations under the Local Government (Ecologically Sustainable Development [ESD]) Act, 1997 to apply the principles of ESD in its decision making process, including the 'Precautionary Principle', 'Intergenerational Equity', 'Conservation of Biodiversity' and 'Internalisation of Environment Cost'. The adoption of a local lead action plan preventing lead poisoning and protecting the environment from lead is in keeping with all four ESD principles.

In order to avoid any potential liability and more importantly, to protect local communities from the hazards of lead, it is essential for local authorities to identify any lead problem in their local area and to develop an appropriate Local Lead Action Plan. The Council LEAD Project has developed this Tool Kit in order to assist New South Wales local councils in this task.

The net benefits to the community of adopting a lead contamination prevention policy are conservatively estimated at $9 million per annum.

This is the conclusion of the "Impact Assessment - Development Control Plan [DCP] for the Management of Lead Contamination" conducted by the EPA (Economics and Environmental Branch, NSW EPA, June 2000).

Additional costs are associated with adopting lead safe procedures. They relate to increased project management time, additional training, equipment and labour resources, and are estimated at around 10% more in labour costs for an average renovation project. The total costs for NSW are estimated to around $35 million per annum.

On the other hands, the benefits to children, workers and the environment are estimated at $44 million per annum through "avoided loss of future earnings and the avoided loss from additional education expenses due to IQ loss in childhood". The impact assessment concludes that "as the adoptions of the DCP is voluntary, the full benefits and costs of the DCP will be limited to those council areas adopting the DCP."

About the Council LEAD Project

The Council LEAD Project was designed to coincide with the launch of the NSW Environment Protection Authority document: "A guide for Councils in Managing Lead Contamination in Home Maintenance, Renovations and Demolition Practices - including an example development control plan".

The Council LEAD Project aims to encourage and support Councils in their endeavours to promote lead-safe communities and to adopt a lead development control plan as part of a local lead management strategy, in accordance with their capacities and their community’s lead risk profile.

This project is an initiative of The LEAD Group Inc., a community group dedicated to the elimination of childhood lead poisoning and protection of the environment from lead, and has been assisted by the NSW Environmental Trust.

A Steering Committee oversees the Project, with representatives from the Local Government and Shires Associations (LGSA), the Total Environment Centre (TEC), the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning (DUAP), WorkCover NSW, Lake Macquarie City Council, CTI Consultants Pty Ltd, the Federated Municipal and Shire Council Employee's Union of Australia and The LEAD Group.

Despite councils becoming more willing to act to promote their community’s health, there are three main constraints on councils’ capacity to act:

  • inadequate knowledge about the extent of the hazard;
  • insufficient awareness or skills to act;
  • limited resources for competing priorities.

The LEAD Group also operates the Lead Advisory Service Australia (LASA), and this service is part of the support services offered to all NSW Local Councils.

The Council LEAD Project (CLP) offers to Councils various types of supports, to assist Councils in assessing and addressing the lead issue. They have been selected after consultation with all NSW councils, through an initial survey of Council LEAD Project (CLP) Liaison Officers within each Council, undertaken in 2001.

Resource material: This CLP Tool Kit contains information covering most topics related to lead, and provides resources to tackle most lead related issues, complementing the Managing Lead Contamination in Home Maintenance, Renovation and Demolition Practices: A Guide for Councils developed by the EPA (see further: "How to use this Tool Kit").

Telephone support: The Lead Advisory Service Australia (LASA) is available during business hours for advice on any matter related to lead. It can be contacted by Council officers by phone, fax, or e-mail. Phone 1800 626 086, Fax: 02 9716 9005, email:

Web Resources: The LEAD Group’s web site has a variety of down-loadable information and links on lead. We have also developed a Council LEAD Project link for matters particularly relevant to local councils. Visit today! Click on the blue and white Council LEAD Project button or go straight to

This on-line support will be further developed we are pleased to announce, thanks to further assistance granted by the Environmental Trust NSW to The LEAD Group’s project. It involves among other things, the creation of an on-line referral database, and will translate in easier access for council staff (as well as members of the public) to The LEAD Group’s massive database of knowledgable experts and lead-trained contractors.

Network: A CLP e-Group has been set up by the Council LEAD Project team to facilitate communication between councils on all lead-related issues. If you are interested in joining and sharing ideas and experiences on setting up lead policies or want to be kept informed on the development of resources, look up our website and follow the prompts. If you are looking at an electronic version of this Tool Kit, just click on and follow the link to where you can join and will also be able to access documents in the files section and previous email postings of the e-group.

How to Use this Tool Kit: A 3-Step Guide to a Lead-Safe Local Community

This Tool Kit is designed as an extension of the Environmental Protection Authority's Managing Lead Contamination in Home Maintenance, Renovation and Demolition Practices: A Guide for Councils, including an example development control plan, [hereafter referred to as the EPA Lead Guide for Councils] providing councils with support in their process of determination and implementation of a lead action plan, as well as providing additional information and resources.

This dual purpose is reflected in the structure of the document:

Part 1 - The 3-Step Guide to a Lead Action Plan

Assessment, Action and Awareness, a step by step guide to developing your local Lead Action Plan, adapted to your council's specific needs and resources

Part 2 – Hard Copies of Related Resources

A bank of lead resources including a selection of booklets, fact sheets and other lead awareness materials available in multiple copies for free. This complements the listing of available resources either on-line or as hard copy documents which appear in Part 1 at the end of each section.

Part 1: A 3-Step Guide to your Local Lead Action Plan

Becoming a Lead Aware Council is easy, just follow the step-by-step guide and design your local lead strategy.

Step 1: Assessment - Community Lead Risk Assessment

Defining your local area’s lead risk profile, investigating lead hazards, testing for lead, the assessment of lead hazards in your local area is a prerequisite to determining the importance of the lead strategy in your local council priority scale.

It will also assist in selecting the type of policy that will most efficiently ensure the lead safety of your local community.
Step 2: Action - Building a Lead-Safe Community

Set an example and ensure lead safety in all council-controlled activities and assets.

Explore the various regulatory and planning powers options for enforcing lead safety in your local area.

Step 3: Awareness - Community Education / Awareness Campaigns

Awareness is the essential element of a good lead strategy, keeping in mind that lead poisoning is totally preventable and the best "treatment" is prevention.

You will find in Step 3 a smorgasbord of lead education campaign material: pamphlets, posters, fact sheets … and advice on how to conduct successful lead education in your community.

Part 2: Hard Copies of Related Resources

The related resources, referred to within each section of the 3-Step Guide, are available in either or both of two forms:

  • hard copy documents, gathered in the second part of tool kit;
  • electronic documents accessible online, many of them to be found on The LEAD Group’s website, the list of which appearing at the end of the relevant section in Part 1.

The majority of the resources are in electronic form, allowing this Tool Kit to remain a manageable size as well as facilitating update of existing documents (especially database reports) and adjuncts of new resources.

The hard copy documents are mostly coloured fact sheets, booklets and posters, either not available electronically or for which multiple copies can be obtained for the purpose of awareness campaigns and include the "must have" information.

Resources available relating to each section of the Tool Kit are listed in two places in the Kit:

  • At the end of each section. For each document, the information provided includes:
  • title
  • where to find the document, including where to obtain a copy if it is available as hard copy only or as well as on-line (web-link if it is available on-line), and whether a hard copy is included in the Related Resources section of the Tool Kit, in which case it is referred to as CLP Tool Kit and how to obtain multiple copies
  • author and source.
  • At the beginning of Part 2, in a table listing all resources available in the form of hard copies and included in this tool kit.


List of Resources Related to the Introduction

Subject Area / Title

Where To Find It

Author / Source

Health Impacts of Lead Poisoning CLP Tool Kit
A work in progress, constantly needs updating as more health effects are discovered every year
Vance Vella, Elizabeth O’Brien and others, The LEAD Group
Blood Lead Concentrations of Preschool Children in Central and Southern Sydney MJA , Vol 164, 1996 Mira, Michael; Bawden-Smith, J; Causer, J; Alperstein, Garth; Karr, M; Snitch P; Waller, G & Fett, M
Lead in Australian Children, Summary of the National Survey of Lead in Children For multiple copies phone the Community Information Unit of Department of the Environment and Heritage on 1800 803 772 and they are not available on-line at: Conducted by the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare. Published by Environment Protection Agency (Cth) (1996)
New research on the health effects of lead exposure: Millions More Children May Suffer From Lead Exposure;
Lead Exposure Linked To Alzheimer’s Disease The LEAD Group, Media Release
Home Improvement Market in Australia Cited in the EPA Guide for Councils in Managing Lead Contamination BIS Shrapnel (1998) Sydney
Cognitive Deficits Associated with Blood Lead Concentrations <10 µg/dL in US Children and Adolescents Lanphear, Bruce P; Dietrich, Kim; Auinger, Peggy; Cox, Christopher, Public Health Reports 2000, Vol 115, 521-529; Nov 2000
Plumbism and Autism Network - support group for parents of children with autism, severe learning difficulties, ADD etc. and lead poisoning The LEAD Group
Residential Tribunal Lead Paint Case The LEAD Group LEAD Action News Vol 7 No 3 1999
Association of families of victims of lead poisoning (in French) Association des familles victimes du saturnisme
Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning (AECLP) website then go to Legal Remedies

Detailed information on legal remedies and lead poisoning in USA. A wide range of information on lead can be found on the AECLP’s site.

Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning
Richard Rabin’s website

Richard has put together an excellent website on lead paint litigation in the USA and the history of the lead pigment industry's efforts to resist legislation controlling the use of lead in paint.

Richard Rabin
Are Councils Lead Liable?
The Implications of Environmental Lead for Local Government

Paper Prepared for the Australian Institute of Environmental Health 24th National Conference held at the Launceston Country Club Resort, Tasmania on the 21 October, 1997

Jason Bawden Smith, Managing Director,
JBS Environmental Services and Technologies
Lead Aware Times Vol 1 No 1
Police Service facing $820,000 fine over lead poisoning at firing range Sydney Morning Herald, 12/3/02

Les Kennedy, SMH 12/3/02
Lead Contamination Scare: Councils Risk Legal Action The LEAD Group, Media Release
AS 4361.2 - Guide To Lead Paint Management - Preventing Lead Poisoning in Australia Specifier Magazine, February 1999

Michelle Calvert, Lead Advisory Service Australia
Developer Contaminates Neighbour's Property Robin Mosman,
Lead Aware Times
Vol 1 No. 1
Lead & Litigation? The Property Management Journal, March/April 2001 Caroline McKay

Contents   Introduction  STEP 1: Assessment  STEP 2: Action  STEP 3: Awareness  PART 2  Top  Disclaimer

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