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Lead Paint Hazards

Lead Paint is common in Australian buildings built before 1971. Watch a video on the risks of lead paint in the Australian Community.

To protect yourself and your family, always choose a qualified painter trained in lead paint management. Find a lead paint qualified painter

The discovery linking lead paint with health issues was actually made in the 1930's by a doctor in Queensland, but paint containing significant quantities of lead was manufactured in most states of Australia up until the late 1960's. Concern over the consequences of the use of lead in paint caused Queensland to ban its use in 1922 and other states to reduce its presence from 1950. National legislation was introduced in 1969 to restrict lead content.

From 1970 onwards, lead content was reduced to below l%. Current paints generally include much lower lead content (0.1% since December 1997) or are even lead free. It may be assumed therefore that buildings constructed after 1970 will not exhibit high lead levels. This would be quite incorrect. Even in Queensland, where legislation was enacted at an early date, any buildings more than 20 years old should be considered suspect, particularly if old, industrial or marine paints have been used.

'Industrial protective coatings' frequently are produced under different regulations to 'domestic paints'. Their use was however, not always confined to industrial structures. The only way for the painter to be sure that they are not dealing with lead based paints is to carry out an approved testing procedure.


Lead enters the human body when you breathe in lead dust or fumes in the air (inhaled), or eat or drink lead contaminated food or water (ingested). It is stored in bones and teeth, some lead will be retained in the blood and in soft tissue.

Small amounts can gradually build up in the body and cause health problems. Lead can cause serious long-term health problems. It can harm almost every part of the human body, the brain, kidney and reproductive organs of men, women and children.

Lead can affect anybody but children under the age of four, pregnant women and their foetuses are most at risk. In pregnant women, the difficulty arises from lead migrating through the placenta and endangering the foetus. The poisonous effects of lead can damage the developing brain and nervous systems of unborn and young children much more easily than adults. The brain of an unborn child cannot distinguish lead from calcium. Lead can pass from the mothers blood into the foetus

Many children and adults with increased levels of lead in their bodies may show no symptoms, even though they are being affected. When symptoms do become obvious (usually at high levels of exposure) they include lethargy, pain in the abdomen and constipation, headache and irritability. Children show these symptoms at lower levels of exposure than adults.

Often the dangers to children arises from the fact that lead residue (as dust) is sweet to the taste. Children frequently will touch surfaces and then suck their fingers. Lead contaminated soil, external to the building, should also be considered a danger. Not only do children touch dirt, fruit and vegetables grown in lead contaminated soil may lead to lead ingestion. Kids love sucking on lead paint because it tastes sweet.

It follows that neither pregnant women nor children should remain in the building where lead based paint removal is in progress and should not enter until all residue has been removed. Domestic pets, particularly those that lick their fur are also susceptible to lead poisoning.