Lead is a heavy metal used in manufacturing various batteries, alloys, plastics and protective coatings. It is not required for human health, and can be toxic when ingested or inhaled. Once in the body, lead circulates in the blood; while most is excreted, some can remain in the tissues, organs and bones.
Previously the research evidence on the effects of low-level lead exposure suggested that anything over 10 µg/dL (micrograms per decilitre) is of concern. The NHMRC Information Paper states that “It was never intended that this goal of 10 µg/dL be interpreted as a ‘safe’ level of exposure or a ‘level of concern’”, rather, it is the level at which sources of exposure to lead should be investigated.
This is currently under review and the outcomes should be available to the public in late 2013/early 2014.
The public statement and information paper reiterate the message that it is important to limit exposure to lead in the community.
Information Paper—Blood Lead Levels for Australians (Under Review)
The information paper is intended for health care practitioners and policy makers. It provides background to lead exposure and articulates goals and recommendations for Australia.
Public Statement—Blood Lead Levels: Lead Exposure and Health Effects in Australia (Under Review)
The public statement from the NHMRC discusses the evidence and makes recommendations on what we should aim for regarding blood lead levels in Australia and also gives some practical advice on minimising exposure to lead.
The NHMRC acknowledges the work of Associate Professor Peter Baghurst, Professor Brian Gulson, Associate Professor Chris Winder, Associate Professor Neil Wigg, Professor Michael Moore, Dr David Simon, Dr Donald Howarth, Dr Alison Jones, Dr Margaret Stevens, Dr Kathryn Antioch and Ms Elizabeth O’Brien in developing the Public Statement and Information Paper for Practitioners and Policy Makers.
NHMRC recommendations on lead exposure
- All Australians should have a blood lead level below 10 μg/dL (micrograms per decilitre).
- All children’s exposure to lead should be minimised.
- All women are advised to minimise their exposure to lead both before and during pregnancy and also while breastfeeding.
Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention (ACCLPP) report, Low Level Lead Exposure Harms Children: A Renewed Call for Primary Prevention
NHMRC is considering the recommendations of this report as part of a literature review which is aimed at reviewing the evidence that the Public Statement – Blood Lead levels: Lead Exposure and Health Effects in Australia is based on. The evidence discussed in the ACCLPP Report is primarily from 2004 and was substantially and rigorously reviewed by the NHMRC in processes underpinning the drafting and endorsement by the NHMRC of the 2009 Information Paper – Blood Lead Levels for Australians.
- Read What Do Parents Need to Know to Protect Their Children? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.