A new publication from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) summarizes 31 investigations in which NIOSH made recommendations to protect workers from potentially harmful job-related exposures to lead.
Work settings ranged from bridges and shipyards where lead particles were generated by abrasive blasting, to an Army depot where employees were exposed to lead from solder in repairing night goggles and laser range finders.
The investigations were reported from 1994 to 1999 under NIOSH''s health hazard evaluation program, in which NIOSH responds to requests from workers, work representatives or management to evaluate occupational health concerns at individual work sites.
The compendium, "Health Hazard Evaluations: Issues Related to Occupational Exposure to Lead, 1994 to 1999," provides a concise overview of NIOSH''s findings and recommendations from the individual case reports.
It also includes a list of key studies, textbooks and standards for preventing job-related lead exposure.
Findings from the 31 investigations revealed that:
- Workers may be at risk of potentially hazardous exposures anywhere lead is present on the job, not just in traditional settings like shipyards and battery manufacturing plants. For example, NIOSH investigations confirmed worker lead exposure in a remodeling project where old paint was sanded from a historic house, and at hospital radiation laboratory where radiation-shielding molds were made.
- Workers'' families may also be at risk from lead dust or particles inadvertently carried home on the worker''s clothing or skin, or from lead materials that are used in some home-based businesses such as electronic component repair.
- Often lead exposures can be significantly reduced through simple, inexpensive measures, such as basic improvements in ventilation and use of good work practices.
Copies of the publication are available on the NIOSH Web site at www.cdc.gov/niosh.
by Virginia Sutcliffe