Occupational lead absorption notifications

This section provides information on occupational lead absorption notifications in people aged 15 years and over from 2014 to 2022. 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].

Surveillance Reports and Metadata

Surveillance Report: Occupational lead absorption notifications (Oct 2023) Download report PDF
Metadata: Occupational lead absorption notifications (Oct 2023) Download report PDF

Key facts from 2021

  1. Occupational lead absorption notification rates doubled from 2019 to 2022 in part due to the new notifiable blood lead level introduced in 2021.

  2. Painters and smelting/metal refinery workers account for 68% of notifications where occupation was known/recorded, in 2021–22.

  3. Notification rates for Pacific males (50.1 per 100,000) were triple all other ethnic groups.

  4. Notification rates for males living in the most deprived areas, deciles 9 and 10, are five times greater than for males living in the least deprived areas, decile 1.

  5. Notification rates for Te Mana Ora have increased 12-fold from 2018–19 to 2021–22.

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 2022. The data was extracted from the HSDIRT system on 6 March 2023. 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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