Run by

The LEAD Group Inc
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
Australians! Take action
today. Is lead harming
you & your kids? Buy low
cost, NATA accredited
laboratory lead test kits
Sample your dust,
soil, water, paint, toys,
jewellery, ceramics
what's new 

Water Lead test Kits

Proceeds from our DIY Home Lead Assessment kit sales go towards the
Keeping Australian Lead Out of Leaded Petrol Initiative.

About Us | bell system lead poisoning | Contact Us | Council LEAD Project | egroups | Library - Fact Sheets | Home Page | Media Releases
| Q & A | Referral lists | Reports | Site Map | Slide Shows - Films | Subscription | Useful Links |  Search this Site


By Patricia Parkinson

The 20th of October is Lead Poisoning Awareness Day, in commemoration of the date when, in1897, the first article (in the whole world) describing lead poisoning in children was published in the Australasian Medical Gazette.

The inaugural Lead Poisoning Awareness Day occurred in 1997, commemorating the centenary of this publication. Every year this day is the occasion to alert parents and carers of young children in NSW to the dangers of elevated blood lead levels, its prevalence and how to minimise the risk to their families.

Sadly, Lead Poisoning Awareness day this year may also be the occasion to commemorate the end of the Lead Advisory Service, as we know it, for lack of NSW funding from the end of November 2000. Which leads us to ask the question: has the lead issue been resolved in NSW? Is there any outstanding lead issue?

Lead is a major health hazard. Ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin, lead travels in the blood throughout the body before being stored in the bones and teeth. The list of the health effects of lead poisoning is long, including high blood pressure, and damage to liver, kidneys and brain. Children, including unborn children, are at particular risk as their developing body absorbs up to 50% of the lead they are exposed to, and the hand to mouth activities of children under five make them more likely to ingest lead in the form of paint or dust. Lead poisoning in children is a documented cause of learning and attention disorders, hearing loss, slowed growth and behaviour problems. It is both the most common and the most preventable paediatric environmental health problem in Australia.

Lead in paint

In Australia, up to the 1950s, paint used on houses could contain as much as 50% lead. Although the lead content of paint was limited to 0.25% by 1970 - and is currently limited to 0.1%, lead paint is still responsible for the majority of childhood and renovator lead poisoning.

Until all lead paint has been removed from houses, lead paint will be a problem and public awareness is critical to preventing our children from the devastating effects of lead poisoning. If you are planning to renovate your home, it is essential that you obtain advice on the appropriate lead safe procedures to follow.

Lead in petrol

The announcement of the phasing out of leaded petrol in Australia by the first of January 2002 was great news indeed. Lead in petrol is the most widespread source of lead in the environment. Lead emissions from cars pollute the air and contaminate garden soil and the dust in roof cavities.

Lead additives in petrol have been known for years to constitute a public health menace, in fact as early as the mid 1920s as revealed in the report by Jamie Lincoln Kitman entitled "The Secret History of Lead", a strongly recommended read. Corporate interests have ensured that despite evidence of the ill effects of lead additives in petrol and the availability of safe alternatives, leaded petrol is still manufactured and constitutes 20% of petrol sold in Australia. Australia was, with Canada, the country responsible for blocking the ban on lead at the OECD meeting of July 1995, and will be one of the last nations to phase out leaded petrol. [See box for details].

But do not assume that the problem will be over on the 1st January 2002. For as is the case with paint, the legacy of some sixty-five years of leaded petrol will linger for a long time to come in the form of dust, stored as a ticking bomb in roof cavities. The removal of ceiling dust by a competent and lead aware contractor is strongly advised prior to any work involving your ceiling, from the installation of a simple skylight to an extension.

Lead in consumer products

Being cheap and having useful properties, lead is used in a wide range of consumer products, from crystal to plastics.

One of the most recently investigated uses of lead was the lead in the core of candlewicks, causing the emission of toxic vapors when burning. A federal ban declared on the 1st September 1999 on candles fitted with a metal core wick, which contained lead, was followed by state regulation prohibiting their supply. Check the wicks of the candles you are burning at home, if you find a metal core at the centre of the wick, it most probably contains lead.

Lead in drinking water

Drinking water is rarely discussed in Australia as a source of lead poisoning. If your plumbing system dates from the 1930’s, lead pipes may have been used. The concern for most homes however arises out of the common use of lead based solder on brass fittings and copper pipes up until as recently as 1989 and on the use of lead in brass and bronze fittings. As a result of corrosion, there is a potential for the lead to leach into the water after prolonged contact. It is therefore the consumption of first flush water- the first cup of tea or baby bottle in the morning – which presents a hazard.

The quality of drinking water is generally well monitored by the water authorities up to the point where the water pipes reach your property. This is precisely where the problems begin in terms of lead.

Studies conducted in Sydney suburbs revealed that the lead level of first flush tap water in many cases exceeded the acceptable level set by the National Health and Medical Research Council (10 µg/L - micrograms per litre). Samples also showed excessive levels of cadmium and copper.

There is also no obligation for the manufacturers of lead based solder to label their product as unsuitable for drinking water plumbing. So beware of DIY plumbing jobs!

Water from rainwater tanks may also present a risk of lead contamination as a result of lead paint or flashing on roofs, lead paint or soldering in the guttering, soft solder or lead fallout from air pollution. A study showed that one quarter of tank-water samples tested in Victoria contained more than the acceptable level of lead.

"Will that be leaded or unleaded coffee sir?"

A study conducted in Perth on water collected from water boilers, urns and coffee and cappuccino machines from restaurants, offices, workplaces and schools, found that 67% of the samples contained excessive levels of lead. The probable source of the contamination was brass components in contact with hot water.

Prevalence of lead poisoning

Lead poisoning has been referred to as the "silent epidemic’ because at lower levels of lead exposure, there are no or few observable symptoms, and it is also probably the most undiagnosed condition affecting children and adults.

The lack of monitoring of blood lead levels is certainly a critical factor in the public's perception of the prevalence of lead poisoning.

The rate of blood lead testing in Australia is incredibly low. According to Medicare statistics, in 1999, less than one person in every 2000 Australians was tested for lead in blood. However, based on the 1994 national survey of blood lead levels in the United States, we could reasonably expect 4.5% of the population, or 90 people in every 2000 Australians to be lead poisoned (that is, above the Australian goal of 10 µg/dL or micrograms per decilitre). The US survey was published one year before their phase-out of leaded petrol and Australia is more than a year away from our phase-out.

A referral from a general practitioner is all that is required to order a blood lead test, but many GPs to this day, not only do not advise blood lead testing, but also have been known to discourage parents from testing their children.

Statistics on blood lead level testing are scarce. In 1999 there were 700 notifications in NSW of blood lead levels above 15 µg/dL (the target was for all Australians to be below this by 1998).

A 1996 blood lead survey of Sydney children found that 25% of 1-5 year olds are lead poisoned and 7% are above 15 µg/dL within 10 kms of the CBD. This translates as 1,925 children at the notifiable level, yet in 1997, there were only 10 notifications for 1-5 year old children in Central Sydney.

For information and referrals to help detect or prevent lead poisoning or contamination, call the Lead Advisory Service Australia on 1800 686 086… before December.

Global Lead Advice and Support Service (GLASS)

The Global Lead Advice and Support Service (GLASS) previously called the Lead Advisory Service Australia provides free telephone advice and referral and free written information on all lead related issues. It has been run since 1995 by the Lead Education and Abatement Design Group (The LEAD Group), a community organisation aiming to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in Australia by the year 2002 and to protect the environment from lead. Funded federally on its first year, the NSW Environment Protection Authority took over and has provided most of the service’s funding since 1996. This funding will not be renewed after November of this year. This follows the closure of the Lead Reference Centre, the body set up in 1997 to lead and coordinate NSW policy and education on lead. The public is left without any specialised public information on lead at a time when all lead related issues are far from having been resolved.


It may be worth noting that in banning lead in petrol from 1/1/2002, Australia is not exactly ‘avant garde’: 55 countries will have banned leaded petrol before Australia does, including Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Colombia and Haiti.

In fact, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Spain and Australia are the only OECD countries that will have failed to phase out leaded petrol by the end of 2001.

In relation to the current controversy surrounding the collection of petrol excise, people would probably be less reluctant to pay the tax if they knew that the money so collected would be used on mitigating the impact of cars and petrol on the community. This could be programs such as public transport, bicycle tracks, walkways, or cleaning up the lead contamination and increasing public awareness on lead poisoning.

Some of the $725,000,000 income that was generated by the leaded petrol excise up to January 2000 could be put towards actually carrying out the Recommendations for a National Strategy, published by the National Health and Medical Research Council in 1993. For example, inspect and abate (that is, make lead-safe) lead-based paint in Housing Department properties.

[ Also see the Risk Factor Questionnaire ]

The LEAD Group Inc. Fact Sheet Index

NSW Lead Reference Centre and NSW Government Publications On this site

  1. About the Global Lead Advice and Support Service (GLASS)

  2. Main Sources of Lead

  3. How Would You Know If You or Your Child Was lead poisoned?

  4. Lead aware housekeeping

  5. Ceiling dust & lead poisoning

  6. Is your yard lead safe?

  7. Health Impacts of lead poisoning

  8. Rotary Questionnaire

  9. Lead poisoned Pets and Your Family

  10. Childhood Lead Poisoning Risk Factor Questionnaire

  11. Is Your Child Safe From Lead? - What Can You Do About Lead?

  12. Lead in Drinking Water in Australia

  13. Have We Really Resolved The Lead Issue?

  14. The Importance of the Availability of "Spot Tests" for Lead in Paint

  15. Pregnant or Planning a Pregnancy

  16. Breastfeeding and Lead

  17. Lead in breast milk

  18. Beware The Lead In Lead Lighting

  19. Renting and Lead

  20. What to do if you have too much lead in your tank water

  21. Lead Contamination in Stormwater

  22. Contamination At Shooting Ranges

  23. Banned: Leaded Wick Candles

  24. Lead, Ageing and Death

  25. Metal miniatures: How to minimise the risks of lead poisoning and contamination

  26. 7 Point Plan for the MANAGEMENT OF LEAD by Australian parents and carers

  27. Countries where Leaded Petrol is Possibly Still Sold for Road Use, As at 17th June 2011

  28. Lead Poisoning And The Brain - Cognitive Deficits And Mental Illness

  29. Facts and Firsts of Lead

  30. Lead mining royalties by state and territory

  31. Lead Mining Stewardship - Grey Lead and the Role of The LEAD Group

  32. Preventative Strategies of The LEAD Group

  33. What do Doctors need to do about Lead?

  34. A Naturopath's Experience Of Lead & People With Diagnosed Mental Illness

  35. Case File: Helping Manage Australian Lead in Petrol - How GLASS Works

  36. Glass Web & Service-Users, Experts & Volunteers, by Country; Countries with Leaded Petrol for Road Use & Worst Pollution

  37. Lead in ceiling dust

  38. Lead paint & ceiling dust management - how to do it lead-safely

  39. Esperance parliamentary inquiry follow-up factsheet: Where to from Here??

  40. Broken Hill lead miners factsheet 1893 with Note 20081015

  41. Helping a Doctor Help 35,000 Lead-Poisoned People Around the Lead Smelter at La Oroya in Peru
    Ayuda a un doctor que ayuda 35,000 personas envenenadas por plomo alrededor de la fundidora de plomo en la Oroya-Peru

  42. Fact sheet for Australian toy importers and traders

  43. Iron Nutrition & Lead Toxicity
    Informe de Acciones – Hierro y Plomo en la Nutrición

  44. Sanitarium-Are You getting Enough Iron

  45. Do-It-Yourself-Lead-Safe-Test-Kits-flyer

  46. Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  47. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to both adults and children

  48. Lead Exposure & Alzheimer’s Disease: Is There A Link?

  49. In CHINA - Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  50. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you take advantage of the Australian government's Energy Efficient Homes Package: Insulation Program

  51. Alperstein et al Lead Alert - A Guide For Health Professionals 1994

  52. Ceiling Dust WorkCover Guide Lee Schreiber Final Nov 1999

  53. What can I do about climate change AND lead?

  54. The Need for Expert Clinical Assessments in Diagnosis Of Heavy Metal Poisoning

  55. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you have insulation installed

  56. Thirty Thought-Starters on Ceiling Void Dust in Homes

  57. Pectin: Panacea for both lead poisoning and lead contamination

  58. Nutrients that reduce lead poisoning June 2010

  59. Lead poisoning and menopause

  60. Fact sheet For Schoolkids From Professor Knowlead About Lead

  61. Prevention of Exposure to Lead at Work in Indonesia

  62. Mencegah kontak dengan timbal di tempat kerja di Indonesia

  63. How to Protect Your Family from Lead in Indonesia

  64. Bagaimana melindungi keluargamu dari timbal di Indonesia

  65. Cigarette Smoking & Lead Toxicity
     صحيفة معلومات: التدخين والتسمم بالرصاص

  66. Medical Evaluation Questionnaire For Occupational Lead Exposure

  67. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to children

  68. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to adults

  69. Biosolids used as fertilizer in China and other countries

  70. What are the lead poisoning risks of a lead pellet, bullet or shot lodged in the body?

  71. Alcohol’s link to higher lead and iron levels

  72. USA Case Definition of Adult (including Occupational) & Child Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLL)

  73. Low Level Lead Exposure Harms Children - A Renewed Call for Primary Prevention

  74. Occupational Health & Safety Fact Sheet Dangers of lead for roofers

  75. Let’s Make Leaded Petrol History - Let’s Make Leaded Gasoline History

  76. Lead, Your Health & the Environment. Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Korean, Macedonian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese 

  77. Lead Safe Housekeeping

  78. Old Lead Paint

  79. Working safely with lead

  80. A Renovator's Guide To The Dangers Of Lead (Brochure 30 pages)

  81. A Guide For Health Care Professionals (Brochure 34 pages)

  82. A Guide To Keeping Your Family Safe From Lead (Brochure 20 pages)

  83. Lead Hazard Management In Children's Services (Brochure 15 pages)

  84. A Guide To Dealing With Soil That Might Be Lead-Contaminated

  85. Exposure Assessment: Lead Neurotoxicity - Is the Center for Disease Control's goal to reduce lead below 10 µg/dl blood in all children younger than 72 months by 2010, good enough?

  86. Foods for Lead Detox - Foods which Fight Lead Poisoning
    Alimentos para la Desintoxicación de Plomo - Alimentos que Luchan contra el Envenenamiento con Plomo

  87. Veganism - How do you obtain all the nutrients from a vegan diet that are important to lead exposed individuals?

  88. Blood Lead Challenge - Take the blood lead discovery and reporting challenge;
    El Desafío del Plomo en la Sangre - Descubra el nivel de plomo en la sangre y desafíe las estadisticas;
    Défi de Plomb dans le sang - Partez ŕ la découverte de plomb dans votre sang et informez nous:

About Us | bell system lead poisoning | Contact Us | Council LEAD Project | egroups | Library - Fact Sheets | Home Page | Media Releases
| Q & A | Referral lists | Reports | Site Map | Slide Shows - Films | Subscription | Useful Links |  Search this Site

Privacy Policy | Disclaimer

Visitor Number

Last Updated 14 March 2015
Copyright © The LEAD Group Inc. 1991- 2015
PO Box 161 Summer Hill NSW 2130 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9716 0014