paints containing high levels of lead were used in many Australian
houses. Exposure to lead is a health hazard. Even small amounts of
dust or chips of paint containing lead, generated during minor home
repairs, can be a health risk.
Anyone painting a house or doing maintenance that could disturb
paint containing lead should avoid exposing themselves and their
families, neighbours or pets to its hazards.
The recommended amount of lead in domestic paint has declined from
50% before 1965, to 1% in 1965. In 1992, it was reduced to 0.25%,
and in 1997 it was further reduced to 0.1%.
dangers of lead in house paints
Lead in house paint is a problem only if it is damaged or
disturbed. Paint in good condition that is not flaking or chalking,
or is covered by well maintained lead free paint is not a hazard in
Lead can also be a hazard when it is on surfaces subject to
friction or impact such as windows and doors, or on railings where
children can chew it. High concentrations of lead found in garden
soils in older residential areas can be due to residue from
paint is most likely to be found on window frames, doors, skirting
boards, kitchen and bathroom cupboards, exterior walls, gutters,
metal surfaces and fascias. It can also be found on interior walls,
ceilings and areas with enamel paint. Pink and red primer both
contain lead, so you should think twice before disturbing any
surface which has had any of these paints applied.
renovating their houses are in the most danger
Home renovators can create lead hazards without realising it. If
old paint is not handled properly, lead dust and paint chips can
remain in the home or on the garden years after the work is
completed. Paint removal by blasting, burning, dry scraping, dry
sanding and using power tools creates the most serious dangers
because the particles are small enough to be inhaled or deposited
in furnishings or carpet, making complete removal extremely
What you can do if you are concerned
way to see if those at risk in your family have been affected by
lead in paint containing lead is to have a blood lead test through
your family doctor.
Even if the blood test shows that your child does not have an
elevated blood-lead level, a paint hazard could still exist if
deteriorating paint is present.
You will also need to reassess the situation as children grow.
Young babies have less hand to mouth activity than toddlers, who
might place dust covered toys or soil containing lead in their
mouths. Children who can walk might rub their hands along the
walls, collect the dust from the chalking paint and later put their
hands in their mouths. Other people's children might be put at risk
when they visit and pets might be in danger of lead poisoning from
eating paint chips or dust.
The only way
to be certain that your paint does not contain lead is to test it
(i.e use lead paint test swabs). For information about testing for
paint containing lead, see the free booklet The Six Step Guide to
Painting Your Home.
When renovating or doing maintenance that could disturb old paint,
care must be taken to avoid exposing yourself, your family, your
neighbours or your pets to lead residues. An experienced home handy
man or woman can repaint a house containing lead if he or she takes
the recommended precautions. These are outlined in the free booklet
Lead Alert – The Six Step Guide to
Painting Your Home.
The guide provides advice on:
how to test for lead-based paint detailed instructions for covering
the paint, or removing it by wet scraping, wet sanding, chemical
stripping, or heat processes
the right tools and equipment looking after yourself – using
protective clothing (coveralls, booties, hat, gloves) and a
respirator (meeting the requirements of Australian Standard 1716)
when the work might involve lead-bearing dust or fumes how to clean
up thoroughly how to contain all waste disposing of
also warns about the things not to do, for example:
don't dry sand or dry scrape or use an ordinary power sander
don't work outside on a wet or windy day
don't use an open flame torch or high temperature heat gun
don't eat, smoke or drink in the work area or with contaminated
don't allow children, pregnant or nursing women in a house or area
where lead-based paint is being disturbed.
renovation or maintenance job is big or complicated, or you cannot
obtain the right equipment to undertake the work safely, call in
Even if you are calling in a professional, it is worth reading the
guide to ensure that the tradesperson takes all the necessary
What is being done by Governments?
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts has
produced the booklet Lead Alert – The Six Step Guide to
Painting Your Home.
Governments have also sought to control the amount of lead going
into the environment by:
limiting the amount of lead in domestic paints as we are more aware
of the risks to our health – since December 1997 the limit has been
placing controls on the disposal of lead contaminated waste
informing home renovators and professionals about the dangers of
paint containing lead, and providing advice on the safest way to
deal with it.
Phone the Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772.
You can ask for fact sheets about lead lighting, lead in ceramic
and pottery glazes, auto and marine paints as well as lead and your
See also http://www.environment.gov.au