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QUESTION: Is it legal to apply used engine sump oil to a timber paling fence? 22 Oct 2008 NSW, Australia

Dear Sir/Madam,

Could you please advise me whether or not it is legal to apply used engine sump oil (much of it containing lead) to a timber paling fence? The fence has been completely coated with this sump oil to deter termites for many years, and this practice has continued until very recently. As my children will be playing next to this fence, and therefore be in contact with it, is this amount of lead-containing sump oil (the fence is 1.8m high and 40m long) a health issue?

Thanks for your help,

EMAIL TWO Sent: Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thanks very much for your reply Elizabeth. The kids haven't been in contact with the fence yet, as the house that we are building won't be ready to move into for a few weeks. However, I definitely want it removed before then, but the cranky old neighbour (the one that has applied all the oil for decades) doesn't want to get rid of it. Anyway, we'll see how we go......

Thanks again,

ANSWER: 22 Oct 2008

Dear Shane,

If the children have already been playing near the fence then I would highly recommend that you ask the GP to carry out blood lead testing.

The amount of lead in sump oil varies but can be extremely high so you are quite right to ask the question.

Sump oil is not legally useable as a pesticide but it is an unfortunate fact that most Australians think "she'll be right mate" on such practices. The degree to which this fence is a health issue for your particular children (or for pets) is highly dependent on their ages, nutritional status and level of hand to mouth activity. Thus I recommend blood lead testing as your first step, because the lead in their blood will be a marker for their exposure to the other toxic (including carcinogenic) components of sump oil. I'm very happy to send you, if you request it, our info pack which will help you and the doctor to interpret any blood lead results and I'd be keen for you to let me know the results in case they may need further follow-up.

All the best

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O’Brien

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