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Painting the town with lead: Managing the dangers of lead contamination

In the Australian Capital Territory, investigations have revealed that a number of schools have lead paint contamination. The lead paint has been found in locations such as boilers in the heating system, with the concern that fragments of toxic lead will have been distributed throughout the school.

Lead contamination is a serious issue. The danger with lead is that it can accumulate in the body over time. At some point, if it is released into the bloodstream, it can trigger harmful outcomes.

SafeWork Australia notes that lead was used extensively in lead paints and lead fuels before these products were banned, but may still be present in some workplaces. An exposure to lead can cause adverse health effects, including cancer, kidney damage, nervous system damage, anaemia and behavioural changes.

How to manage the risk of lead contamination in your workplace

Undertaking a risk assessment of your worksite and work practices is critical. Involving an expert in this area is a benefit given the specific uses of lead and how it may still affect your workplace. Of course, if your work practices involve lead itself, you will need to comply with the health and safety regulations that govern working with lead.

If you find a potential exposure to lead, elimination is the most preferable course. Again, an expert will be able to assist in identifying and removing any lead.

While lead is one latent health issue, it is important to consider more broadly what other latent risks may be present. Asbestos, silica dust and other toxic substances may be present at your work locations. It is critical that you also assess the potential for these substances to harm your workforce.

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