Lead Paint

Lead can pose a health threat and should be removed carefully. If lead paint is not properly removed and / or cleaned up after removal enforcement action may be taken by Council.

Health threats

Lead is a metal that is potentially hazardous when small particles are taken into the human body by swallowing or breathing. It can cause severe health problems, particularly to young children and women of child bearing age.

A single exposure to high concentrations of lead, such as eating lead paint flakes, can cause significantly elevated blood-lead levels. Even relatively low levels of lead in the blood can adversely affect children’s intellectual development and behaviour.

Where lead paint can be found

Lead paint is most likely to be found in houses built before 1970. Health risks increase if the paint is flaking or chalking. The risk is particularly high if the lead paint is removed by sanding, sandblasting or burning.

Lead can commonly be found in:

  • Pink primer - used in undercoats applied to both interior and exterior timbers and as a priming coat to trowelled plaster walls, cement-rendered surfaces and as a top coat on external weather boards
  • Window frames, doors, skirting boards kitchen and bathroom cupboards exterior walls, gutters, metal surfaces and fascias. It may also be found on interior walls, ceilings and areas with enamel paint.

If the house is built before 1970 it should be assumed that the paint contains lead and all necessary precautions be taken unless it is tested by appropriate representative sampling and analysis of areas and layers of paint to be removed. This sampling should be conducted by a suitably qualified professional such as an occupational/environmental hygienist which can be found in your telephone directory.

Removal methods

Lead paint should be removed using methods that do not produce dust or fumes. Make sure the lead contaminated waste can be effectively collected and removed.

Lead paint should not be removed using methods which result in the creation of dust or fumes such as:

  • Dry sanding
  • Dry scraping
  • Sandblasting
  • Heating/burning.

Appropriate methods of lead paint removal generally include:

  • Wet scraping
  • Chemical stripping
  • Wet sanding
  • Dry power sanding with a HEPA vacuum attachment
  • Work areas should be contained if possible and plastic disposable drop sheets should be used.

Clean-up

Despite the best precautions some lead dust / flakes will be produced as a result of lead paint removal. Appropriate clean up measures are therefore required.

Brooms or standard vacuums without a HEPA filter should not be used as this can spread lead dust.

Generally acceptable clean up measures include using a suitable commercial vacuum with a HEPA filter attached and wet wiping the work area with clean TSP solution or sugar soap.

Care must be taken when removing plastic drop sheets. These should be gently wet down prior to removal and placed in sealed plastic bags for disposal.

Council enforcement

If lead paint is not properly removed and / or cleaned up after removal enforcement action may be taken by Council. This may include fines or prosecution. Council may require clean up works and validation by qualified professionals where necessary.

Further information and useful references

Newcastle City Council and WorkCover can assist you with further information regarding the identification and safe work practices and procedures in removing lead paint.

Contact Council on 4974 2000.

Other reference material can be found on the following web sites:

  1. WorkCover NSW 
  2. NSW Department of Planning
  3. Safe Work Australia