Lead was used for centuries in water pipes, water jugs, and bullets because it is easy to mould into different shapes. However, as lead is known to be harmful to human health, its use is restricted to products that are not used for food or drink.
Lead was also used in paint products. Paints containing as much as 50% lead were used on the inside and outside of houses built before 1950. Until the late 1960s, paint with more than 1% lead was still being used. By 1970, the lead content of paint was limited to 1%.
As such, precautions may need to be taken when renovating or repainting your home. Lead exposure could also occur if the paint is flaking or peeling in a house built before 1970. Extra care should be taken to avoid exposure to children and pregnant women.
For more information see "The Six Step Guide to Painting Your Home", third edition.
Lead may also be contained in other products. For more information on lead, see our factsheets:
- Lead and the Environment
- Lead and Your Health
- Lead in Auto Paints
- Lead in Ceramics
- Lead in House Paint
- Lead in Marine Paints
- Lead in Pottery
- Lead in Recreational Activities
- Lead in Stained Glass
While lead is emitted to the atmosphere from lead smelters, mining operations and waste incinerators, lead in the atmosphere is mostly (approximately 90%) from the exhausts of motor vehicles that use leaded petrol. As such, the Australian Government has announced that leaded petrol will be phased out in Australia by 1 January 2002.
If you have a vehicle that runs on leaded petrol, you will be able to use the widely available Lead Replacement Petrol (LRP), also called Lead Free Super. See our Questions and Answers fact sheet for more information.
Some vehicles that currently run on leaded petrol (those manufactured before 1986) may even be able to run on unleaded petrol. Contact your vehicle manufacturer or the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts to see if your pre-1986 vehicle can run on unleaded petrol.