Auckland Regional Public Health Service
Ratonga Hauora-ā-Iwi ō Tāmaki Makaurau
Exposure to lead can result in lead poisoning. This can cause serious health issues.
Exposure to lead paint is a leading cause of lead poisoning in children and adults. Infants and preschool children in contact with flaking paint or lead-contaminated dust or soil are particularly at risk of developing lead poisoning.
ARPHS’ health protection officers provide advice to the public on lead and many other hazardous substances.
Lead poisoning originating from workplaces is assessed by WorkSafe. Non-occupational lead poisonings are investigated by ARPHS.
If you think you might be suffering from lead poisoning, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.
Symptoms of lead poisoning can include:
Other symptoms can include lack of appetite, feeling sick, diarrhoea, constipation, stomach pains and weight loss.
In Auckland, the most common causes of lead poisoning in the home, or from hobbies and activities, or work, are:
Lead-based paint was commonly used on houses up until about 1980. People who renovate their homes, and strip or sand this paint, can release lead into their environment, commonly as dust, or into the soil. Children are most at risk as they have smaller bodies, are closer to the ground (and therefore the lead), and will often taste or eat contaminated materials, or touch them and put their hands to their mouths. Make sure you are very careful about clean-up, especially if you have young children.
ARPHS has been notified of several cases of lead poisoning resulting from the use of Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicines. Alternative medicines are often classed as dietary supplements, and may not comply with the same safety standards as conventional medicine. Asian alternative medicines and products that may contain lead and other heavy metals include:
It's recommende people who buy alternative medicine products:
Indoor shooting is sometimes associated with raised blood lead levels. It is particularly important not to carry lead home on your body and clothing if you will be in contact with pregnant women or young children.
Some amateur fishermen, shooters and divers like to make their own weights and bullets. If you do this you need to be very careful about your lead exposure as you may release lead into the environment, often in small spaces, such as your shed or garage. Hobby activities like stained glass panel making and car repair are also potentially risky.
Lead poisoning is common among people who strip paint for a living, such as from houses and industrial structures. Employers are expected to have preventative measures in place to protect against this. Further information is available from Worksafe.
ARPHS’ health protection staff provide advice to enquirers and notified cases about lead and other hazardous substances.
For non-work related notifications, ARPHS will investigate the source of lead poisoning and provide advice.
There are specific requirements for notifiable diseases in the Auckland region.
Last updated 23.11.2022