Measuring heavy metals in human hair

The Department of Health is often asked about the use of hair and hair follicle testing for determining exposure to metals and using results to assess risk to health.

Metals, sometimes referred to as heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, copper, iron and arsenic, can be measured in hair but, at present, hair levels are not considered a good marker of either exposure or health. Therefore, results of hair monitoring should be interpreted with caution. 

Where community members have hair test results for metals and are concerned, the Department of Health advice is to discuss your results and medical concerns with a medical practitioner.  Medical practitioners can determine the need for follow up blood or urine tests.

The fact sheet Measuring heavy metals in human hair FAQs (PDF) (797KB) provides the following information:

  • how heavy metals may enter the body and how they are measured
  • what is hair testing and its accuracy
  • the limitations of hair testing and what to do when concerned.

More information 

Chemical Hazards

Phone: (08) 9222 2000

Last reviewed: 19-02-2021
Produced by

Environmental Health Directorate