Northampton Lead

Shire of Northampton residents are more likely to be exposed to lead than the general Western Australian population. Naturally occurring mineralised lead is widely distributed throughout the Northampton Shire. The town and the surrounding districts have a long history of lead mining and processing of these localised pockets of heavily mineralised soils.

Lead in the area is present from:

  • naturally occurring lead
  • lead concentrated tailings
  • materials left from treating the mined lead that were moved from the old Northampton State Battery and used for a variety of purposes including building foundations, driveway fill and carparks.

The State Battery was demolished at the end of 2010. The site was remediated by securing the remaining tailings within a contained cell.

Since 2010 several investigations have been commissioned by the Western Australian State Government to identify the location of remaining concentrated lead tailings and to evaluate the potential health risks.

Up to date information on the progress of investigations is available from the Department of Lands (external website).

Public Health Advice

Specific advice on how to minimise the health risks of lead is provided in the article Minimising health risks of lead (HealthyWA).

Blood lead levels

In May 2015, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released a public statement Evidence on the Effects of Lead on Human Health (external website) that updates prior recommendations related to measuring and protecting all Australians from health impacts of lead. It states:

  • a blood lead level greater than 5 micrograms per decilitre (ug/dL) suggests that a person has been, or continues to be, exposed to lead at a level that is above what is considered the average background exposure in Australia.
  • If a person has a blood lead level greater than 5 ug/dL, the source of exposure should be investigated and reduced, particularly if the person is a child or pregnant woman.
  • Individuals should have their blood lead level tested if there is a reason to suspect they have swallowed or breathed lead from a particular source (more than the very small amounts in most people's everyday environments); or someone in their household has had a blood test that showed a level greater than 5 ug/dL; or they have unexplained health problems that could be due to lead.

The Department of Health has adopted this advice for all Western Australians. Because lead exists at higher concentrations in the Northampton Shire compared with most of Australia, the Department of Health recommends blood lead screening to identify who is at risk and assist improving management practices to keep blood lead levels below 5 ug/dL.

Blood Lead Screening

All residents in the Shire of Northampton can participate in Blood Lead Screening to assess their current exposure to lead and associated health risks. This applies to all residents, not just those involved with the lead tailings project.

Free blood tests are available from:

  • Northampton Hospital for residents 12 years and over
  • Geraldton Hospital for all age groups, including younger children and babies.

If you prefer, your General Practitioner (GP) may contact the MidWest public health physician for details on how to access free blood lead tests through the Department of Health - Northampton Lead Screening Program.

Results from the Blood Lead Screening program will be provided to the MidWest public health physician, who will maintain confidentiality and provide individual feedback and health advice. Based on the results there may be a need for:

  • further blood lead testing
  • consultation with the public health physician, and/or
  • assistance from an environmental health officer to investigate possible exposure sources and to improve existing lead management strategies to lower blood lead levels for the individual and their family.

Who is most at risk?

Children aged less than five and unborn babies

Young children's growing bodies absorb lead more easily than adults. Because of their tendency to put their hands and other non-food objects into their mouths, toddlers and young children have a greater chance of ingesting lead.


Pica is a medical disorder characterised by an appetite for non-food substances such as dirt or paint-flakes. Special attention to young people with pica is necessary to limit their intake of lead from soils and dust in their surroundings.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

Women with elevated blood lead levels risk transferring lead to their developing baby through the placenta and breast milk. If you are thinking of starting a family, make sure you know your blood lead level. It is recommended you talk with your midwife or GP.

Contact Information

Midwest Population Health - public health physician

Telephone: (08) 9956 1971
Mobile: 0429 086 740

Environmental Health

Telephone: (08) 9222 2000