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  QUESTION: Danger of lead dust in lift shafts, 30 May 2003, New South Wales Australia

My 30 year old son works every day in lift shafts, of high rise buildings.

He has been unwell for some months, symptoms are head aches, digestive problems, high blood pressure, lethargic etc.

I am concerned he could be breathing in high levels of lead dust.

Would you recommend a blood test to confirm doubts?

Your web page is so informative, I am so glad this is brought to the attention of the public, thankyou very much.

Marianne Sainty.

ANSWER: 02 Jun 2003

Dear Marianne,

thankyou for your very kind words of appreciation.

Yes, I would definitely recommend a blood lead test for your son as there are several potential sources and pathways for lead to get into lift shaft dust:-

  • Any lead in the air outside (from past vehicle emissions, current lead paint removal or a huge range of industrial processes) could fall as dust and reside in the ceiling void and other cavities of high rise buildings and leak into the lift shaft;
  • Grease containing lead powder can be used as a lubricant called antiseize and although I don't know if this is used with lift cables I also don't know for sure that it is not (see attachment - "All that's copper coloured is not antiseize");
  • Over the years all lifts will receive a large volume of tracked-in dust on people's shoes off the road and pavements and this dust will also be lead contaminated and potentially leak into the lift shaft.

Please let us know the result as you may have identified a new task with a risk of lead poisoning.

Thanking you
Elizabeth O'Brien

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