Lead-safety for roofers and rainwater users!

Do you work with lead? Do you handle lead flashing? Do you use rainwater? Do you know how much lead is in your blood?


Photo: Peter Webb. Volcano Art Prize 2012 Finalist. Title: Pb. Lead-Safety Message: Replace lead on your roof with non-lead flashing / gutters / paint etc before installing a rainwater tank

Exposure to lead: Health damage can be permanent

  • Lead can have many subtle, but serious, long term health effects
  • Lead is a cumulative poison. When inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin, it is toxic to virtually every human organ
  • From a single exposure, lead is quickly distributed and stored through the body where it remains a long term source of internal exposure
  • Exposure to lead can have a broad range of health effects depending on the amount of lead present and the length of exposure. The greater the exposure, the greater the impact on health

Protect yourself when working with lead
Wear protective work clothing such as respirator, safety glasses and gloves

  • Never eat, drink, or smoke in the work area
  • Always practice a high standard of personal hygiene. Wash your hands and face and scrub your nails with soap and water before eating or drinking and before leaving work or smoking
  • Food, cigarettes and tobacco can easily become contaminated when you handle lead
  • Lead can be absorbed through sweat pores in the skin
  • Shower and change into clean clothes and shoes at work before you go home
  • Keep dirty work clothes and shoes in a separate bag from your clean street clothes
  • If the above recommended hygiene is not possible, purchase hand wipes for use prior to eating, drinking or smoking and be sure to shower as soon as you get home and wash your work clothes in a separate load from your non-work clothes and the rest of the family’s clothes

If you’ve been exposed to lead, ask your doctor to test your blood for lead
There’s no such thing as a ‘safe’ level of lead in the blood…

  • A high lead blood level is currently defined as more than 10 micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood (10 µg/dL) and it is the Australian public health goal for all Australians to have a blood lead level below 10 µg/dL. However, an increased risk of early death from heart attack or stroke has been found for adults with blood levels as low as 2 µg/dL
  • Even if you have no symptoms, damage to your health can be occurring that may not show up until many years later. If you are working with lead, it is very important that you find out how much lead is in your blood

If you have some of these symptoms you may have a high blood lead level

  • Hypertension
  • Hearing loss
  • Balance problems
  • Slow reaction time
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pains
  • Anaemia
  • Weight loss

Wherever possible, choose lead-free alternative products to protect your health, your family and the environment. Replace leaded flashing with non-lead flashing, especially prior to installing a rainwater tank, or if you drink rainwater.

For further information:
Safe Work Australia – phone 02 6121 5317
National Code of Practice for the Control and Safe Use of Inorganic Lead at Work [NOHSC:2015(1994)]
WorkCover NSW, phone 131050. Code of Practice for the Control of Hazardous Substances (1996)
Workers Health Centre, Granville
The LEAD Group (information and referral service) FREECALL 1800 626 086


This fact sheet was written by Elizabeth O’Brien for