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QUESTION: Would ceiling dust be lead-contaminated by lead paint fumes due to partial damage by fire? 04/02/11 New South Wales, Australia

A commercial building we manage has been partially damage by fire - the tenants have raised concerns that the paint on the external portion that has been burned is lead based paint.  I am wanting to find out how I can confirm this, and whether the soot/smoke that has penetrated the roof cavity would be lead effected if the paint were lead based.  If this is the case is steam cleaning of the carpets sufficient to have it removed from the carpets?

Thank you

Kind Regards


ANSWER: Feb 4 2011

Hi Trish,

further to our phone conversation, the number for the one company we know of that uses a lead-specific detergent in their carpet cleaning is 131580 - Elite Carpet Dry Cleaning and your closest Elite franchise has the direct number 46559917 (they're at Camden).

LeadCheck kits can be used to determine whether paint contains more than 0.5% lead.  See WHERE TO BUY LEAD CHECK KITS: and be sure to test the layers of paint closest to the weatherboard.

LeadCheck kits don't work on dust but for that purpose, The LEAD Group has set up a DIY-sampling lab analysis lead testing kit - which involves you and the tenant reading the kit instructions, jointly collecting dust wipe and ceiling dust samples and jointly posting them to a lab. You will then get a report of the results and an interpretation with recommendations on what to do about the results. As you will see in our fact sheet Lead paint & ceiling dust management - how to do it lead-safely - we normally recommend testing after clean-up but in the case of a fire with an insurance company that needs to be convinced of the need to clean up, we recommend dust wipe testing of the carpet and of ceiling dust.

These two samples could be done with our Basic Kit, the 2-sample kit costs AU$120 or AU$100 for LEAD Group members. Once the lab has the samples, you receive the report in one to two weeks. A lead assessor would charge between $500 and $1000 plus travelling costs, to come to the property and collect the samples (and write the report).

It will not be possible to determine the source of any lead found in the ceiling dust at a normal lab (the testing costs thousands of dollars per sample and is only available at some universities) so it could be argued that it would be cheaper for the insurance company to pay for ceiling dust removal than to quibble about whether the fire caused any lead contamination in the roof void.

We only recommend that ceiling dust removal be done by a company that is a member of the Australian Dust Removalists Association. However, if a disaster recovery / fire clean-up contractor could demonstrate that they had the appropriate asbestos-rated industrial truck- or trailer-mounted HEPA vac equipment, AND they follow the ADRA Code of Practice - - then it is conceivable that it will be done lead-safely.

All the best with the work

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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