The parents of 85 children attending Heritage Childcare Centre at ANU should consider blood-testing their children after high lead levels were found in dust and flaking lead paints at the centre.
After a parent complained to the university about flaking paint at a nearby vacant building last month, ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt said the university paid for an environmental study at the childcare centre.
That study took 37 samples in the outdoor play area, including a sandpit and obstacle course area at the childcare centre, only two samples of which - on the northern side of the building - came back with "elevated levels".
Professor Schmidt said a previous whole-of-campus hazardous materials study at ANU did not show up any elevated lead levels at the centre, despite lead-based paints being used on campus since the 1970s.
He said the university had publicly released the 2015 report and would released the latest survey conducted at the end of last month.
ACT Health Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly advised parents of the 85 children who currently attend the centre to consider talking to their general practitioners about getting blood tests for lead levels in their children.
A letter Dr Kelly sent to ACT GPs said that despite the area being remediated, "we have advised concerned parents/guardians to speak to their GP about whether a blood test may be warranted".
"The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends blood lead level testing in individuals if there is a reason to suspect they have ingested or inhaled lead from a particular source; or if they have unexplained health problems that could be due to lead," the letter reads.
But he said, given health problems from lead exposure are usually linked to high levels of exposure over long periods, it was unlikely testing would reveal elevated lead levels in children.
Dr Kelly also said such blood tests can only detect fairly recent exposures, within a few weeks or months and that children were of higher concern than adults exposed, given their propensity to put their hands in their mouth, and the amount of time spent on the ground.
ACT Health also conducted a site visit to the centre after ANU alerted the directorate to the issue, with the health protection service saying the university had already "identified and controlled the source of lead exposure to children" and there was "no ongoing risk" to the children.
The university has already remediated the area concerned and as a precaution removed and replaced all sand from the sandpit, despite no samples showing elevated levels in the sandpit.
A WSP Australia/Parsons Brinckerhoff report of the sampling completed in April showed two of the 37 samples taken significantly exceeded national guideline levels of 300mg/kg, at 6900mg/kg and 2300mg/kg respectively, but the other 35 samples were below guidelines.
The report showed that lead paint flaking and peeling from the centre's northern exterior wall had combined with sand at the edge of a pathway and that playground activities caused the paint to be "ground into small particles and mix with the sand".
In addition to the remediation works already completed, the report recommended another round of lead sampling be undertaken, including "a combination of environmental soil samples and occupational swap samples".
Correction: An earlier version of this article said a parent noticed flaking paint at the childcare centre, rather than a nearby building.