Home renovators warned of lead poisoning danger

Thursday, 22 February 2018

South Australian renovators are urged to be aware of the dangers of lead paint, after an Adelaide family experienced lead poisoning during restoration of their dream home.

SA Health’s Director of Public Health Services, Dr Kevin Buckett, said lead-based paint was commonly used on the interior and exterior of many older homes and buildings.

“Prior to 1970, the paint used in many Australian houses contained very high levels of lead as it was an effective colour pigment and made paint durable,” Dr Buckett said.

“While paint sold today is only permitted to contain minute amounts of lead by law, lead-based paint is still present in many Adelaide homes, including some built after 1970, and exposure can have serious health impacts.

“During renovations, lead from paint can enter the body by breathing in fumes and small particles, or by swallowing paint flakes or dust.

“These fumes, particles or flakes are readily absorbed into the body and can circulate in the bloodstream, where it can damage organs and the nervous system.

“Exposure to higher levels of lead has been associated with symptoms such as joint and muscle pain, fatigue and headaches and although many people do not feel any different when they are exposed to lead, it can still be damaging the body.

“Pets may display symptoms of lead exposure before household members because they come into close contact and readily lick and swallow lead contaminated soil, dust and paint flakes around the home.

“It’s not possible to know if paint has lead in it by its appearance alone, so it’s important to adopt lead-aware practices and take precautions when renovating, restoring or repainting to keep renovators and their families safe.”

Adelaide homeowner, Anthony, said he and his young family were exposed to lead dust through old paint during renovations to their home.

“After doing some renovations, a friend questioned whether our house had contained lead paint,” Anthony said.

“I bought a lead test kit and after discovering the old paint did contain lead, I organised for myself and my family to have blood tests at our GP.

“Surprisingly, our blood tests came back high, indicating that we had indeed been exposed to lead.

“While we were aware of other renovation hazards, lead poisoning from the paint had never occurred to us.

“Thankfully it was detected early and we avoided ongoing exposure, but it is a reminder to other home renovators to be aware of the potential dangers of lead paint.”

Lead may be present in both topcoats and undercoats and particularly on interior and exterior surfaces like walls, skirting boards and architraves, doors, window frames, gutters and pipes, ceiling spaces, wall cavities, under floors and fittings.

In the past, lead-based paint has also been used on cars and boats, old furniture, including baby cots and garden chairs and benches and children’s toys.

Babies, infants and children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning and if exposed at high levels, their IQ can be affected. In severe cases, lead poisoning has been fatal.

For more information see: lead-aware practices, symptoms and health impacts.

^ Back to top