About this item

Issue date:
23 February 2024
Corporate Author:
Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora
Environmental health

These guidelines provide a resource document for public health officers who are involved in the investigation and management of people who have been exposed to lead (from non-occupational sources).

Lead absorption is a condition which is notifiable to the Medical Officer of Health under the Health Act 1956. The levels of blood lead which are required to be notified in New Zealand are ‘lead absorption equal to or in excess of 0.24 micromoles per litre (µmol/l)’ or 5 micrograms per decilitre (µg/dl).

While the guidelines are applicable for any age, there is an emphasis on measures for managing cases of lead-exposed children.

The guidelines assist public health officers to identify all contributory lead hazards and (open) exposure pathways using a combination of interview, visual observation, and laboratory testing. A management plan, typically incorporating both behavioural (educational) and environmental (abatement) strategies, can then be developed in consultation with the family. It must be emphasised that the guidelines aim to provide a ‘lead-safe’ environment; this is not the same as a lead-free environment.

In 2021 the guidelines were revised to incorporate the reduction in the notifiable lead absorption level in the Health Act 1956, which was reduced from 0.48 (or greater) micromoles per litre (µmol/l) to 0.24 (or greater) µmol/l. An updated graded response protocol was included at the time which provided recommendations on appropriate responses to the results of the most recent blood tests from affected persons. Such recommendations are based on international and national standards, but for all individual cases public health officers should also be guided by the medical practitioner.

Properly applied, the guidelines help with determining:

  • the risk of a lead hazard
  • appropriate advice on managing the risk, including risk communication.

These guidelines exclude places of work, and ambient (outside) air.


2024 revisions

Originally published in 1998 and revised in 2007, 2013, and 2021 the latest revisions are minor and administrative in nature only, from the version published in 2021.     

Download: The Environmental Case Management of Lead-Exposed Persons - PDF, 2 MB

Guidelines for Public Health Officers

Download: The Environmental Case Management of Lead-Exposed Persons - DOCX, 1 MB

Guidelines for Public Health Officers

Accessible word document