National Health and Medical Research Council

Skip Navigation and go to Content
Explore NHMRC
Close sitemap

Review of lead exposure and health effects in Australia

NHMRC is reviewing the evidence on the health effects and management of lead exposure in humans. The review has a particular focus on low level lead exposure (blood lead levels below 10 micrograms per decilitre) as there has been increasing recent evidence suggesting that health effects may occur at blood lead levels lower than previously thought. 

The findings of the review will be used by NHMRC to update its 2009 Information Paper and Public Statement on lead and human health.

Evaluation of evidence related to exposure to lead

NHMRC commissioned the Cochrane Public Health Group at the University of Melbourne to complete an independent review of the evidence relating to exposure to lead.  The review report was completed in February 2014 and includes:

  • a non systematic review of the literature examining the health effects of exposure to lead; routes of lead exposure in non-endemic areas; clinical indicators for testing for exposure to lead; blood markers; availability and accuracy of testing for exposure to lead; and management strategies to reduce exposure to lead at an individual and at a population level;
  • an overview of evidence (i.e. a systematic review of systematic reviews) of health effects associated with blood lead levels (i) less than 5 micrograms per decilitre and (ii) 5 to 10 micrograms per decilitre in children and adults; and
  • a systematic review of evidence for the effectiveness of strategies for reducing blood lead levels in children and adults in non-endemic lead environments.
  • Evaluation of evidence related to exposure to lead (PDF, 2.8MB)

Lead Working Committee

The lead working committee was established in 2012 to consider the available evidence on lead toxicity and management strategies for minimising individual exposure to lead. 

The Lead Working Committee has assisted the NHMRC in developing the scope of the independent review of the evidence relating to lead and considered the findings of this review to inform the development of the draft Information Paper.  

The Lead Working Committee will be responsible for considering the submissions made during the public consultation process and amending the Information Paper with any new relevant information.

Public consultation on the draft NHMRC Information Paper

The NHMRC draft Information Paper was released for public consultation on 16 July 2014.

Interested organisations and individuals are invited to respond to specific questions in relation to the draft Information Paper, via the NHMRC public consultation website.  All information required to make a submission is available on the portal. The closing date for submissions is 15 September 2014. The draft Information Paper can be accessed following the link to the public consultation portal below.

NHMRC’s 2009 published information on lead

The 2009 NHMRC Information Paper and Public Statement on lead will be updated following public consultation on the draft Information Paper. The 2009 documents provided below are for background information only and are not included for public consultation.

If you have any queries regarding NHMRC review of the evidence relating to lead exposure, please contact NHMRC at

Page reviewed: 5 August, 2014