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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
ABN 25 819 463 114

Council LEAD Project NSW

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A Tool Kit for making your community safe from lead

August 2002

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



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Overview of Sources of Lead Poisoning

Defining your Lead Risk Profile

Investigating Lead Hazards

Testing for Lead

Standards and Guidelines for "Acceptable" Lead Levels in NSW

List of Resources Related To Step 1


Step 1: Community Lead Risk Assessment

This is the first step towards designing your lead safety strategy.

Find out about the sources of lead hazards in your local community. This will give an indication on how high a priority lead management issues should rank in your council’s resource allocation decisions.

This process involves:

  • Acquiring a basic understanding of the sources and pathways of lead with an overview of the major sources of lead poisoning;
  • Defining your local lead risk profile through the completion of the council lead risk assessment checklist;
  • Investigating identified lead risk factors;
  • Assessing findings in the light of the standards and guidelines for lead in various media / products in NSW.

Overview of Sources of Lead Poisoning Top

Lead has been used over the years in a multitude of industrial and domestic products with Australia being the world’s largest exporter of lead.

As a result, lead is ubiquitous in the environment, creating multiple sources of hazards to the people exposed to it, as shown in this table.

Source of Lead



Lead paint (defined in the US as containing greater than 0.5% lead but in Australia is defined as 1% lead by weight of the dry film) is the most common (though usually indirect) source of lead poisoning in children. Lead paint with more than 1% lead was used in residences in Australia up to 1970 and there are 3.7 million pre-1970 homes in Australia. In 1992, the maximum lead content was reduced to 0.25% and in 1997 it was reduced again to the current maximum lead content of domestic paint - 0.1%.

Hand to mouth activities results in the ingestion of dust from lead paint that is either flaking, chalking, or has been sanded.

Ingestion of lead paint chips directly, either flaking from the walls or being chewed from painted pieces of furniture or toys (in particular, cots), is rarer but can cause very serious to lethal lead poisoning.

Lead is still in use for automotive and marine paints, industrial paints, farm equipment paints and sign and marking paints. Those same lead paints can occasionally be found inappropriately used as primers in residential housing or as glossy feature coatings.

Building materials

Lead is a common component in building products, including sheet lead, lead flashing, lead solder, lead water pipes (and sometimes gutters), plumbing fittings, PVC products, leadlight windows and the contacts on light bulbs. (See EPA Lead Guide for Councils in Technical Note 3 for more details on uses.)


Soil is a major reservoir of lead in the environment. Soil can be contaminated with lead from fallout of airborne pollution, from the road, industrial or agricultural activities involving lead. Previous use of land or surrounding land is to be considered, for example, agricultural, industrial, workshops involving lead use, clay target shooting. Exterior sanding, scraping or abrasive blasting of lead paint, as well as unsafe disposal of lead waste, also cause high levels of lead in soil. Children playing in the dirt risk ingesting lead. Lead dust may also be brought into the house on shoes.


Dust can contain high levels of lead as a result of a number of sources including past or current industrial activity, unsafe lead paint management, unsafe renovations, leaded petrol, lead light windows. It is the most common medium for lead poisoning, as a result of being ingested or inhaled. Accumulated cavity dust is of particular concern as it can be released into the living areas through cracks in ceilings, or released into the environment in large quantities during demolition or renovation work.

Lead dust brought home on clothes of parents or other adult co-residents working in the lead industry is also a source of lead exposure in children.

Drinking water

Lead in water is a less commonly identified source of elevated blood lead levels when reticulated water is in use, but occasionally can contribute to lead poisoning from lead leaching into drinking water from old lead pipes, lead solder on water pipes or in fittings. Newer plumbing systems actually contribute more lead to the drinking water than old ones, due to lead in PVC and brass and bronze fittings.

Tank water is a much more likely source of lead poisoning due to belated changes in 1996 to the Building Code of Australia (BCA) which banned lead flashings on the roof area used for collection of drinking water. One in four of the tanks tested in a study in rural Victoria, by Bannister et al., contained lead at or greater than the guideline level for lead in drinking water.

Tank water can also be contaminated with lead when the first flush of rain is not diverted from the tank, especially after a long dry period, from roofs made of new sheet metal or sheet metal painted with lead paint, from ceramic roof tiles, old lead guttering, new sheet metal guttering or tanks, new PVC roofing, guttering, tanks or pipes, lead solder used in the piping, tank or fittings, and leaded brass or bronze fittings, etc.


Unsafe practices such as non-contained dry sanding of lead paint, or failure to remove lead dust from ceiling cavities prior to demolition or renovations which break into the ceiling or wall cavities, result in the contamination of soil, dust, and stormwater with lead, and eventually to high levels of lead in waterways. Disposal of liquid waste containing lead to toilets is a common practice. Through sewage overflows, this also contributes to the contamination of waterways. Other sources of waterway lead contamination include industrial activities involving emission of lead fumes or dust, cars: lead acid batteries, tyre wear, lead weights on car wheels and burned cars contaminating stormwater drains or rivers.

Petrol and other vehicle-associated sources

The progressive process of phasing out lead in petrol nationwide was completed as at the 1st January 2002. This has significantly reduced the level of airborne lead pollution. However, lead in soil and in dust accumulated over the years of leaded petrol-generated airborne pollution remains in the environment and constitutes a health hazard for years to come. Cars are still a significant source of lead contamination through the use of lead in car batteries, radiators, PVC, auto-paints, panel beating, wheel and seat-belt weights, etc. Activities still permitted to use leaded petrol in the form of AvGas include motor racing, motor bike racing and water sports and in remote Aboriginal communities where there are petrol sniffing problems.

Other sources

Other sources include activities such as mining, smelting, processing, recycling, electronics, gun clubs, radiator repair and panel beating workshops.
Workers are the most affected by lead from point sources, in particular when working conditions do not offer adequate ventilation and other controls. The families of these workers are also at risk with lead brought home by the workers on their clothes and shoes. Lead emissions from point sources also expose the community to risk from airborne lead contamination, leading to dust and soil contamination.

Hobbyists in do-it-yourself building and demolition, painting, turning battery lead into sinkers or bullets, diving weights, boat keels etc or other hobbies that involve lead such as furniture and antique restoration, are often exposed to lead and may expose their neighbours.

Also food and drink stored in leaded crystal, lead-soldered cans, or lead pewter and collector’s items (for example lead soldiers, bronze or brass items) or lead-glazed ceramic ware, leadlight and lead or pewter jewellery are sources of lead.

Defining your Lead Risk Profile  Top

Just tick those items in the table that occur in your local government area.

    Lead Risk Factor / Past or Present Activity

Lead Use / Source of Lead


  Buildings built prior to 1970, including heritage properties, hospitals, schools, community halls Paint, leaded building materials


  Activities involving demolition work and exposure of ceiling/roof/wall cavities Dust in cavities


  Heavy traffic areas; (major roads; major traffic intersections of over 25,000 vehicles a day) Leaded petrol emissions


  Any structure or infrastructure that may be coated with lead paint (old children's play equipment, bridges, tanks) Paint


  Shooting range (clay shooting, gun club, defence works) Lead shot


  Airport Fuel


  Marina Paints, ship keels, ballast and components


  Waste facilities Paint waste, chemical waste


  Mining and extractive activities Zinc, copper, silver, lead ores, waste


  Smelting and refining activities Ore concentrates and slag


  Battery manufacture and recycling Lead plates, oxides, leaded sulphuric acid, waste


  Chemical manufacture and use Paint, pigments, pesticides and plastics, waste


  Electrical / electronic works Solder, air, dust, cable sheathing and in cable coating, waste


  Engine works Lead petrol, paint on metal machinery


  Service station and fuel storage facilities Leaded petrol storage tanks, sludge, soil


  Foundries and gas works Paint on metal and in alloys, gas production by-products, air, dust, soil,


  Metal treatment works Paint and galvanising on metal machinery, air, dust


  Timber paint stripping yards, wood for reuse Paint removed from timber, old paints, flakes, dust


  Exhaust and radiator repair shops, auto paint and panel-beating shops Paint, lead petrol exhaust dust, lead metal used for filling, dust


  Areas of natural out-croppings of lead in surface soil (contact the Department of Mineral Resources) Soil


  Areas that were used for orchards, market gardens or other agricultural purposes Lead based fertilisers and pesticides. Apple orchards are of particular concern with the extended use of lead arsenate up to approx. 1960.

Once completed, the risk factor checklist sketches your local government area (LGA) lead risk profile.

In this task, the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) internet database could be of assistance. It provides information on types and amounts of certain substances being emitted to the environment.

Once the risk factors are established, the assessment of your council's current response to mitigate those risks and protect the community will dictate how much of a lead hazard threatens your community.

The following questionnaire aims to explore the current lead policies in place and/or highlights the measures that need to be taken to address them.

Investigating Lead Hazards    Top

How is your council currently addressing lead risks? Write answers in the table.


Has there been a risk assessment of lead activities in your LGA and has there been any further investigation of lead levels in relevant areas?  


What is the proportion of pre-1970 dwellings in your LGA?  


Is there one or more person/s in your council in charge of lead issues?  


Has council adopted a development control plan on lead / hazardous substances?  


Has your council adopted model conditions of consent ensuring the identification and management of lead in home renovation / demolition?  


What is council’s policy for identification and management of lead hazards in council-owned or managed premises frequented by children (pre-schools, early childhood centres, libraries, caravan parks, halls, etc.)?  


Does your council have trained officers to deal with lead issues arising out of council’s activities?  


Are there lead-safe guidelines for maintenance of council-owned or managed infrastructure?  


Is there a protocol for council’s workers / contractors to comply with lead-safe work procedures?  


What is the council’s response to concerns expressed by residents on, for instance, a neighbour’s unsafe renovation / demolition creating a risk of lead contamination?  


Has council conducted lead poisoning public awareness campaigns?  


Has any study of stormwater pollution been conducted and what has been revealed by it in terms of heavy metals pollution? If a problem has been identified, what actions have been taken to address the issue?  


Is there annual testing of lead (and other chemicals) in drinking water in facilities owned or controlled by council (in particular for water from rainwater tanks that serve the public), eg caravan parks, halls, childcare facilities, libraries, tourist destinations?  
 Testing for Lead  Top

Systematic lead testing and risk assessment of lead in assets and areas are a compulsory component of any council lead-safe policy. All council workers should be trained in basic testing techniques, but for more comprehensive testing, the service of a professional lead assessor may be required.

Although it is safe to simply assume the presence of lead paint in all buildings built prior to 1970, testing the paint allows a more accurate risk assessment.

Post 1970 buildings should not be coated with lead paint. The possibility that lead paint may be present should however not be discounted. Industrial or maritime paint might have been applied, or recycled materials (eg. windows or doors) might have been used.

The Australian Standard AS 4361.2, 1998 Guide to Lead Paint Management - Part 2: Residential and Commercial Buildings provides guidelines for assessment and describes the three techniques used for detection of lead.

  1. Chemical field test reagents (spot tests) - for paint
  2. Portable X-Ray Fluorescence analysers (XRF)
  3. Laboratory analysis

Council owned or managed infrastructure and services should be systematically tested for lead.

A list of local spot test suppliers should be established and made available to council staff as well as to the public. A general list is available on the Council LEAD project website and supplied in the Resources section of this kit.

Lead assessment of the paint is a good start, but a comprehensive assessment, including dust and soil testing is better.

Professional lead assessors conduct comprehensive building assessment and advise on the management of lead and other hazardous substances.

Contact details, company profile and descriptions of their services can be found in the Related Resources section of this document.

Standards and Guidelines for "Acceptable" Lead Levels in NSW   Top

This table is a reference for any questions that may arise on the "acceptable" levels of lead, keeping in mind that any level of lead is a contamination level since there is no safe level of lead.

Lead Source / Pathway

Lead Levels

Standard / Guideline Source


1.5 micrograms/m3 1.5 µg/m3 (90 days average) for ambient air

By 2008, NSW is required to comply with the National Environment Protection Measure for Ambient Air Quality which limits lead in air to
0.5 micrograms/m3
0.5 µg/m3
(annual average)

150 µg/m3 TWA for worker exposures.

Allowable industry emissions to air vary according to company licence but rarely exceed 1.0 µg/m3 .

NSW EPA using National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommendation as a guideline for compliance

National Environment Protection Council (Commonwealth) Act 1994

National Environment Protection Council (New South Wales) Act 1995

National Environment Protection Measure for Ambient Air Quality 1998

Exposure Standards for Atmospheric Contaminants in the Occupational Environment [NOHSC:1003(1995)]


0.5 mg/kg - generic standard for food products

0.3 mg/kg – instant food

0.2 mg/kg – beverages

1.0 mg/kg – offal

National Food Authority – Food Standard Code


General background concentration of total lead in soil is less than 50 mg/kg

300 mg/kg Investigation level for residential yards, garden, day care centres, pre-schools and primary schools

600 mg/kg Investigation level for recreational open space, playgrounds, parks and secondary schools

1200 mg/kg Investigation level for multi-unit buildings where residents have limited access to soil

1500 mg/kg Investigation level for commercial and industrial areas.

NSW EPA 1994

Australian and New Zealand Environment Conservation Council (ANZECC), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the National Environmental Health Forum recommendation for investigation threshold for lead in soil.

These same values have been taken up into the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 which was endorsed under s. 105 of the NSW Contaminated Land Management Act 1997, as according to a requirement of the National Environment Protection Council (New South Wales) Act 1995.

Drinking Water

0.01 mg/L (0.01 mg/L = 10 micrograms (µg) per litre) in drinking water
0.05 mg/L in raw water which is source for drinking water
<4.5% lead in products or materials in contact with hot and cold potable water OR to comply with AS 4020
0.01% lead in solder in contact with drinking water
NHMRC Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, 1996

Non-Drinking Water

Concentration of total lead in fresh & marine waters depends on water hardness and the applicable % of species protected. Australian Water Quality Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Waters, 2002

Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulations 1998


National phase out of leaded petrol completed as at 1/1/02 with exception of leaded petrol (AvGas) still permitted for water sports, motor car and motor bike racing and in remote aboriginal communities where there are sniffing problems. Fuel Quality Standard Regulation 2001 under the Fuel Quality Standard Act 2000 (Commonwealth). Exemptions to allow the continued use of AvGas are given by Environment Australia to sporting associations and to the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing


  • Bare and carpeted floors: 1 mg/m2
  • Interior window sills: 5 mg/m2
  • Exterior surfaces: 8 mg/m2
NSW EPA recommends the use of lead dust standards to determine the safety of the premises for re-occupancy after renovation and clean-up are completed.

The lead dust loadings for various surfaces are from AS 4361.2-1998 Guide to lead paint management Part 2: Residential and Commercial Buildings. They were originally based on 1995 US guidance for investigation of lead poisoning. In the US the "clearance" level for bare and carpeted floors was lowered in 2000 to 0.4 mg/m2 but the Australian standard is yet to change to this more rigorous clearance level.


0.1% maximum lead content for domestic paint (since December 1997) – paint for bridges is now included in this category. Uniform paint standard – Appendix I of Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons



National goal: all Australians to be at or below
10 micrograms/decilitre or 0.48 micromoles/litre (10 µg/dL or 0.48 µmol/L).
National target: all Australians to have a blood lead level below 15 micrograms/decilitre or 0.72 micromoles/litre (15 µg/dL or 0.72 µmol/L) by 1998. *

15 micrograms/decilitre or 0.72 micromoles/litre (15 µg/dL or 0.72 µmol/L):

15 micrograms/decilitre or 0.72 micromoles/litre (15 µg/dL or 0.72 µmol/L): Notification of elevated blood lead levels by laboratories to the Public Health Unit is required in NSW.

NHMRC Guidelines for Lead in Australians: goal revised 2 June 1993; target set at November 1993 meeting of NHMRC [A new target is required as the date attached to the first target has passed long ago].



Blood lead notification is required at 0.72 micromoles/L under the Public Health Act, since December 1996 in NSW. **.



Level at and over which an employer must ensure that a worker must cease to carry out a lead risk job:

50 micrograms/decilitre or 2.41 micromoles/litre (50 µg/dL or 2.41 µmol/L): Females not of reproductive capacity and males

20 micrograms/decilitre or 0.97 micromoles/litre (20 µg/dL or 0.97 µmol/L) Females of reproductive capacity

15 micrograms/decilitre or 0.72 micromoles/litre (15 µg/dL or 0.72 µmol/L) females who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2001, Chapter 7: Hazardous Processes, Part 7.6 Lead processes and lead risk work, section 203.

* Strategies in place to meet the national target were expected to result in 90% of children 1-4 years to have a blood lead level below 10 micrograms/decilitre or 0.48 micromoles/litre (10 µg/dL or 0.48 µmol/L) by the end of 1998. [The national target has not been achieved to date in Sydney or in the major lead point source areas of Broken Hill in Far West NSW and Boolaroo in North Lake Macquarie, near Newcastle.

** Tasmania is considering requiring notification at 0.48 micromoles/litre (0.48 µmol/L). In the US, many states require notification of any blood lead result

In completing this Step 1, the following has been achieved:

  • Definition of your local lead risk profile
  • Investigation of the problem areas and determination of the scope of the problem
  • Assessment of council’s current policy on lead.

This information lays the foundation of your Lead Action Plan.

The next step is to consider the options available to council for addressing the lead issues that have come to light through this evaluation process, and select the most appropriate components of your Lead Action Plan.

This is the object of Step 2: Action.

List of Resources Related To Step Top

Subject Area / Title

Where To Find It

Author / Source

EPA Lead Guide for Councils Section 1, Sources of lead contamination NSW EPA (ph 131 555)

Web-link to be advised

Lead Reference Centre (LRC) & NSW EPA
EPA Lead Risk assessment checklist - EPA Example DCP for lead contamination NSW EPA

Web-link to be advised

Lead Reference Centre (LRC) & NSW EPA
Sources of lead CLP Tool Kit

The LEAD Group, Lead Advisory Service News Vol.1 No.1
Investigation of Microbiological and Chemical Water Quality in Rainwater Tanks in Victoria, Report No. 139/97. Lead Advisory Service Australia Library Bannister, R; Westwood J; McNeill, A; Water Ecoscience Pty Ltd
Targeting Toxic Shot (Shooting Range) Jeff Turner, LEAD Action News vol 4 No.3
Contamination at Shooting Ranges Dr Corinne Rooney
Outdoor Shooting Ranges and Land Contamination -Considerations for Councils CLP Tool Kit

Council LEAD Project, The LEAD Group
Ceiling Dust and Emission Sources Mike van Alphen, Lead Sense, LEAD Action News, Vol.7 No.2
Toormina kids at risk from petrol station fumes (petrol station) Media release from the Total Environment Centre. (TEC), LEAD Action News Vol.5 No.4
Lead Poisoning Slide Show Dr Ben Balzer, Technical Advisory Board of The LEAD Group.
Gasworks and soil contamination The LEAD Group
Blacktown council carpark sediment & stormwater study Blacktown City Council
PVC Pressure Pipes for use with drinking water CLP Tool Kit

Phone Iplex Pipelines on (02) 9879 7554 for multiple copies

Iplex Pipelines
National Pollutant Inventory Environment Australia
EPA Lead Guide for Councils, Technical note 2: Risks factors and testing Distributed by NSW EPA ph 131 555 Lead Reference Centre (LRC) & NSW EPA
AS 4361.2, 1998 Guide to Lead Paint Management - Part 2: Residential and Commercial Buildings Standards Australia ph 1300 654 646

Can be ordered by phone or on-line at

Standards Australia
Lead Spot Test Kits Suppliers List CLP Tool Kit

The LEAD Group
Lead Analysis Laboratories - database report CLP Tool Kit

The LEAD Group
Lead Assessors - database report CLP Tool Kit

The LEAD Group
Materials and Environmental Investigations ( incl. Lead Paint Management Services and Training) CLP Tool Kit. Phone (02) 9736 3911 or email for multiple copies or down-load from CTI Consultants
Lead Paint Management Services. CLP Tool Kit. Phone (02) 9690 2599 or email for multiple copies or down-load from JBS Environmental Services and Technologies
Enviro Check Company Profile CLP Tool Kit. Phone (02) 4647 1242, 0418490323 or email for multiple copies or down-load from Enviro Check
Impact Assessment - Development Control Plan for the Management of Lead Contamination NSW EPA (ph 131 555)

Document prepared in conjunction with the EPA Lead Guide for Councils and Example DCP

Economics and Environmental Reporting Branch, NSW EPA

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

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