Occupational lead absorption notifications

This section provides information on occupational lead absorption notifications in people aged 15 years and over from 2014 to 2021. The data comes from the Hazardous Substances Disease and Injury Reporting Tool (HSDIRT). Data before 9 April 2021 relates to a blood lead notification threshold of ≥0.48 µmol /L. From 9 April onwards, the notifiable threshold was set as ≥0.24 µmol/L. While no safe level of exposure to lead has been found, these are the notifiable thresholds currently set by the Ministry of Health [1].

Prolongued lead exposure in adults can result in a range of psychological and physiological outcomes including depression, high blood pressure, heart and kidney disease, and reduced fertility [2].

Factsheets and Metadata

Factsheet: Occupational lead absorption notifications (Oct 2022) View interactive report Download report PDF
Metadata: Occupational lead absorption notifications (Sep 2022) Download report PDF

Key facts from 2021

  1. In 2020–2021, occupational lead notification rates for Pacific Peoples (11.0 per 100,000) were over four times greater than any other ethnic group while also having the highest median blood lead levels.

  2. Compared to 2019, occupational lead notification rates in more deprived areas, quintiles 3–5, halved in 2020, while less deprived regions were unchanged.

  3. From 2014–2021, painters were consistently the most notified career group for occupational lead notifications.

  4. In 2021, 38 males and one female, exposed to lead occupationally, exceeded the Biological Exposure Index of 0.97 µmol/L.

  5. In 2020 and 2021, occupational lead notifications contained a high amount of missing data.

To view more information about occupational lead in Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as downloadable figures and data, access the interactive factsheet at the top of this page.


Information about the data

This indicator reports HSDIRT occupational lead absorption notifications from 2014 to 2021. The data was extracted from the HSDIRT system on 8 March 2021. Updates or additions made to HSDIRT after this date are not reflected in this factsheet.

Repeat blood lead tests taken within a year of the original test have been excluded from this data unless further investigation has resulted.

This data source, only includes cases that were notified and will be underestimating the total burden of disease and injury caused by lead exposures. Also, a case will not be included in the analysis if the GP is unaware of the tool and does not use it to notify cases or the laboratory does not directly notify the blood lead result to EpiSurv.

Lead absorption is challenging to detect based on symptoms alone as many cases are asymptomatic and will therefore not be seen by a doctor and/or have a blood lead test. In some instances a blood lead test will occur because of awareness of the person’s occupation.

For additional information, see the metadata linked at the top of this page.


1.Centres for Disease Control. 2021. Lead; Information for Workers. Atlanta: Centres for Disease Control. URL: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/lead/health.html (Accessed 04 October 2022)

2.Ministry of Health. 2021. The environmental Case Management of Lead-exposed Persons. URL: https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/environmental-case-management-lead-exposed-persons (Accessed 09 August 2021)


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