The Indooroopilly silver-lead mine, circa 1924. Photo: John Oxley Library
Lead from old mine tailings at levels at 10 times industry standards has contaminated land at Indooroopilly.
The former mine, which was used as a teaching and research tool by the University of Queensland, is surrounded by residential properties.
Brisbane City Council has been informed of the lead contamination on the site, as have nearby residents on Isles Road.
The site was a silver and lead mine between 1919 and 1929.
Lead is common in household activities, but can have serious health implications in large doses if swallowed or breathed in, because it builds up in the body.
"Lead can affect children by causing learning and attention problems, hearing loss, slowed growth, and bad behaviour," a Lead Safe Queensland Health document says.
"Lead can affect pregnant women and pass through the mother's body and harm the unborn baby."
UQ believes the lead came from old mine workings from the original mine.
The tests reveal six sites are contaminated with lead and UQ last week formally advised the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
Lead levels should be below 1500 milligrams per kilogram at industrial sites and at 600 for recreational use, according to test results.
The results show several test sites at 17,300, at 16,100, at 14,100, and at 12,400 milligrams per kilogram.
In one stream sediment study, the lead is also 10 times the industry safety level.
"The soil testing has confirmed some areas of lead contamination believed to stem from historic workings at the site, which operated as a lead and silver mine between 1919 and 1929," UQ property and facilities director Alan Egan confirmed in a statement.
UQ could be asked to evacuate all staff, to fence off portions of the site, or to cover portions of the site with trees by the state government.
It could also be asked to bitumen large parts of the site.
There are 130 staff and 30 students work at the experimental mine, which was bought by the UQ in 1967.
“This contamination appears to be historical, pre-dating the University's connection to the site,” Mr Egan said.
“It's an unfortunate legacy that UQ has inherited.”
The council's zoning classes most of the site as “community use”.
Mr Egan said the location of the contaminated soil and the use of the site meant it was unlikely lead would be ingested or inhaled, or that anyone would have been exposed to it over an extended time.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is now considering the findings.