Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 98-112, 1998 Jan; :1-74
The toxic effects of lead are well documented in both children and adults. Workers' exposure to lead can damage the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, hematological system, and the kidney. Workers' lead exposure can also harm development of their children. Lead has been shown to be an animal carcinogen, and authors of recent studies suggest that occupational lead exposure increases the risk of cancer. Lead poisoning often goes undetected since many of the symptoms, such as stomach pain, headaches, anxiety, irritability, and poor appetite, are nonspecific and may not be recognized as symptoms of lead poisoning. Because of national efforts to reduce environmental lead exposures, general population lead exposures in the United States have dropped significantly in the past two decades. In 1978, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) promulgated a lead standard to protect workers in general industry. In 1993, as required by Title X, OSHA provided an equivalent level of protection to workers in the construction industry. Lead exposures in the workplace, however, continue to be a significant public health problem. Research studies on lead toxicity in humans indicate that current OSHA standards should prevent the most severe symptoms of lead poisoning, but these standards do not protect workers and their developing children from all of the adverse effects of lead. In recognition of this problem, voluntary standards and public health goals have been established to lower exposure limits for workers exposed to lead. The Department of Health and Human Services has established a national goal to eliminate, by the year 2000, all occupational lead exposures that result in blood lead levels (BLLs) greater than 25 ug/dL. Key recommendations include: State surveillance programs should be expanded to all states where workers are exposed to lead-based paint (LBP) hazards to identify high-risk workplaces and conduct follow-up investigations where needed; Research and education are needed to assist small businesses involved in LBP activities in developing low-cost controls for reducing worker lead exposures and environmental releases of lead; Research is needed to determine better the extent of take-home lead exposures among workers who are exposed to low airborne lead levels, but who work in lead-contaminated environments; Until more data are available, protective clothing and hygiene facilities should be considered for workers in lead-contaminated workplaces, regardless of their airborne lead exposure levels; Research and education are needed to improve worker protection during maintenance and repainting of steel structures coated with LBP. This should include the use of improved engineering controls and design of highly protective respirators for abrasive blasting; Research is needed to provide a set of objective data that would be useful for employers' initial exposure assessments of common residential lead abatement methods, and renovation and remodeling activities involving LBP; To reduce worker lead exposures during residential work, safer methods such as enclosure, encapsulation, and replacement should be used where possible instead of LBP removal by torch burning, heat gun, or abrasive methods; A system for evaluating the quality of analyses of lead in paint, dust, and soil, done in-place with portable instruments, is needed.
NIOSH-Author; Painters; Painting; Construction-industry; Industrial-hygiene; Analytical-methods; Lead-dust; Lead-poisoning; Paints; Heavy-metals; Central-nervous-system-disorders; Cardiovascular-system-disorders; Reproductive-system-disorders; Hematopoietic-system; Blood-disorders; Kidney-toxins; Nephrotoxins; Protective-clothing; Control-technology; Construction-workers; Abrasive-blasting; Sampling-methods; Surveillance-programs; Work-practices; Construction-Search