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Lead-based paint

From the putting your safety first section

The dangers of lead-based paint

You can get lead poisoning if you do not take care when you remove lead-based paint from the inside or outside of a building. Children, especially pre-schoolers, are particularly at risk from lead poisoning because they may swallow bits of paint that contain lead or soil that has been contaminated. Children chewing on painted cots or toys are also at risk if lead-based paint has been used.

Until 1965, many paints on the New Zealand market had high lead levels. This was particularly true of pre-1945 paints. Even if a building has been recently painted, it may have been painted with lead based paints or have layers of old paint covered by modern paint. Today only special purpose paints contain lead and these are clearly labelled.

During pregnancy, lead may cross the placental barrier from the mother to the baby. Some evidence suggests that elevated blood-lead levels in the mother might affect the development of the nervous system of the baby and might increase the risk of a premature birth.

It's not possible to tell lead-based paints by their appearance, but there is a simple test that can detect whether the paint is a health risk. You can purchase a lead based paint test kit from your local Resene ColorShop, or take in a flake and Resene ColorShop staff can test it for you. If a building was built and painted prior to 1970 it is best to presume that it has been painted with lead-based paint. Contact a Health Protection Officer in your local area if unsure.

Lead poisoning:

Lead-based paint removal is hazardous

  • The removal of lead-based paint can result in harm to both the people doing the job and the people who live or work nearby.
  • Untreated lead poisoning can lead to brain damage or even death.

Lead is a health hazard. Small chips of lead containing paint or lead paint dust can create health risks. It can also contaminate the environment.

Home renovators often unknowingly create hazards.

Fine lead-based paint particles deposited in soil or household dust can become a constant risk to the health of young children, other household occupants and pets.

Lead enters the body as lead containing dusts (produced by sanding or by disturbing flaking or chalking lead-based paint) or lead fumes (produced by heat and burning).

What to do:

If you think a child may have been exposed to paint dust, flakes of old paint, soil with paint dust in it, or may have chewed on some old paint, you should ask your doctor to check the child's blood lead level.

Safety points for removing lead-based paint:

Protecting yourself:

Effect of lead on the garden:

If safety precautions haven't been taken, soil may be contaminated and the top layer may need to be removed.

Vegetables and fruit grown in soil contaminated by lead-based paint are currently deemed safe to eat as long as they are carefully washed to remove dust and soil from the leaves on the outside of the plant.


Health and safety

The 'Health and Safety in Employment Act' requires employers to provide a safe working environment for employees. Employees and self-employed people are also required to protect themselves and others from harm. This includes contractors.

For further information on lead poisoning contact your local Health Protection Officer.


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