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Exposure to lead from the Mystic River bridge: the dilemma of deleading.

Landrigan PJ; Baker EL Jr.; Himmelstein JS; Stein GF; Weddig JP; Straub WE
N Engl J Med 1982 Mar; 306(11):673-676
Environmental and epidemiologic data relating to lead contamination from a bridge painted with lead based paint was gathered. Air and soil samples were taken from under the bridge where lead based exterior paint was flaking. Sandblasting, scraping, and repainting of the bridge were undertaken and lead contamination from these activities was also investigated. Workers involved in sandblasting and repainting were tested for lead intoxication. Also examined were 123 neighborhood children for blood lead content. Neighborhood dust samples were analyzed for lead content as well. Air, surface soil, and household dust near the bridge were heavily contaminated with lead. Samples of grit from sandblasting showed a mean lead concentration of 8127 parts per million (ppm). Comparison with samples from under another lead painted bridge revealed that concentrations were 2000ppm higher under the bridge being repainted. Four children living within two blocks of the bridge had blood lead content above 30 micrograms per deciliter; no children beyond that distance showed elevated lead content. For workers, the highest airborne lead concentrations were in the abrasive blasting enclosures. Symptoms of lead toxicity were common in workers scraping and repainting. The authors report that abrasive blasting accelerated the process of environmental dissemination of lead; however, removal of the lead would eliminate a major source of community lead exposure. Recommendations are offered for the safest methods of paint removal. Continuing environmental monitoring and control are advised.
Environmental-pollution; Industrial-hygiene; Occupational-exposure; Disease-prevention; Industrial-safety; Chronic-exposure; Chronic-toxicity; Environmental-exposure; Toxicology
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Journal Article
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New England Journal of Medicine
Page last reviewed: November 6, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division