Measuring heavy metals in human hair

The Department of Health (DOH) is aware that there has been community confusion around the use of hair and hair follicle testing for determining either the exposure to heavy metals or possible health risks posed by these contaminants.

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 treated with caution. 

Where community members have had hair tested for heavy metals and are concerned about the results, the DOH advises that any concerned persons should follow up the tests with a blood or urine test and then discuss those results with their medical practitioner. >

The fact sheet Measuring heavy metals in human hair FAQs (PDF) (507KB) 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