About Lead

How does lead enter our bodies?

Lead can enter our bodies through ingestion (eating and swallowing) of lead contaminated food, water, soil, dust or paint chips and through inhalation (breathing in) of lead dust particles. A common way of absorbing lead, particularly for young children, is through contaminated hand to mouth movements.

What is the safe level of lead?

There is no safe level of lead that has been proven not to cause any health problems.

16 July 2014, The World Health Organisation, Centre for Disease Control released a draft information paper ‘Evidence on the effects of lead on human health’ for public consultation. The draft paper recommends the reduction of the blood lead level of notification be reduced from 10 micrograms per decilitre down to 5 micrograms per decilitre.

Queensland Health Chief Health Officer Dr. Jeannette Young announced on the 17 July 2014 that they will adopt the new reduced notification blood lead level from 10 micrograms per decilitre down to 5 micrograms per decilitre prior to the NHMRC paper being finalised.

17 July 2014: Media Release – Lead Review

Who is at risk?

Lead can affect the health of anybody, but some people are more at risk that others.

  • Pregnant women and unborn children, and children under four years are at a very high risk if they are exposed to lead.
  • If a woman has a lot of lead in her body, and if she does not have enough calcium, iron or zinc in her diet, she can pass lead to her unborn child, and also pass on lead when she breast feeds.
  • Young children can be more affected by lead than older children or adults because:
    • Their brain and nervous system are still developing
    • They absorb (take in) more lead if it is swallowed than adults do
    • Normal behaviours of young children (crawling, putting their hands and other objects into their mouths) means they are more likely to swallow lead if it is around in dust or in paint in their homes
    • Children tend to chew on things that are around them, and some children have got high levels of lead from, for example, chewing on the bars of old cots which had lead in the paint on them

Free blood lead level testing available at QML

Queensland Medical Laboratory (QML)
13 Isa Street, Mount Isa
Telephone: (07) 4743 4299
Open Mondays to Fridays 7.30am–2.00pm
No appointment necessary

For more information about lead please contact the Living with Lead Alliance on free call 1800 457  547 within business hours.