NSW EPA reminds residents to be safe around lead in homes and gardens

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is reminding Wollongong residents to be aware of the risks of exposure to lead and other heavy metal contaminants from a range of historical sources around the home, especially when renovating and gardening.

The safety message follows the publication of a comprehensive report examining legacy heavy metal contamination issues (in particular lead) in the Wollongong Local Government area.

The Literature review of the levels of lead and other heavy metals in soil and roof dust in Wollongong and measures to manage any associated health risks examines legacy contamination issues and recommends further testing, including of soil, in the Port Kembla area to provide more site-specific data.

“In response to the recommendations of the report, the EPA will undertake further soil testing to address any data gaps. The EPA will also offer voluntary soil testing for residents who may be interested,” EPA Manager Regulatory Operations Peter Bloem said.

“The EPA testing will complement other local contamination studies and help the community understand the risk of exposure from heavy metals, including lead and cadmium, and whether any other actions need to be taken.”

The report also recommended the development of a model to assess health risk exposure.

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District’s Director of Public Health, Curtis Gregory, said blood lead level testing is the preferred method of assessing health risk exposure.

“Any elevated blood levels are reported to our Public Health Unit, and we work to determine the appropriate health response. Anyone with any concerns about risk of exposure to lead should discuss this with their GP,” Mr Gregory said.

A Wollongong City Council spokesperson welcomed the release of the Literature Review.

“As a member of the Lead and Other Heavy Metal Contamination Working group we welcome the release of the Literature Review, that will be of interest to many in our community,” the spokesperson said.

“We encourage residents to look through the detailed document and, if they’re keen to understand it in more detail or have questions, visit the EPA website.”

The EPA is sharing lead information factsheets with residents and, once the COVID situation allows, will host a community drop-in session to speak with residents about the report and answer any questions.

“The presence of lead and heavy metals around your home may be well known to some residents and new to others but there are simple steps that can be taken to prevent or minimise exposure,” said Mr Bloem.

“We will be sharing information on the actions that residents can take to help ensure we stay safe and healthy and where to get further advice, if needed. In the meantime residents can ring the EPA’s Environment Line on 131 555 if they have questions.”

More information on lead safety and the Literature Review can be found on the EPA website.