NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Lead poisoning among battery reclamation workers in Alabama.

Gittleman JL; Engelgau MM; Shaw J; Wille KK; Seligman PJ
J Occup Med 1994 May; 36(5):526-532
A study of lead (7439921) poisoning among battery reclamation workers was conducted. The study group consisted of 15 persons, 14 males, 22 to 49 years old, employed at an industrial battery reclamation facility in Jefferson County, Alabama. Environmental and breathing zone samples were collected as part of a walk through survey of the facility and analyzed for dust, mists, and lead. The workers were given physical examinations that included assessments of clinical symptoms and determinations of blood lead, zinc- protoporphyrin (ZPP), hematocrits, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and uric-acid. Blood samples were also collected from 27 family members of the workers (11 adults and 16 children) and 16 persons (11 adults and five children) living in the neighborhood (comparisons) for lead analysis. Painful joints, sleeping problems, poor memory or mental confusion, and muscle weakness were symptoms frequently reported by the workers, the prevalence being 27, 13, 13, and 13%, respectively. Fourteen workers reported wearing half face respirators; however, these were not changed daily and no respirator fit program existed at the facility. One third reported smoking at work and 93% reported eating their lunch at their workstation. The mean blood lead concentration in the workers was 65 micrograms per deciliter (microg/dl). Twelve workers had blood lead concentrations above 60microg/dl. Fourteen workers had ZPP above 79microg/dl. BUN concentrations were significantly correlated with the ZPP concentrations. Creatinine concentrations were significantly decreased in seven workers. Blood lead concentrations in adult family members of the workers ranged from 4 to 21microg/dl. Six children of workers had blood lead levels of 26 to 42microg/dl, and 12 of 16 had levels above 10microg/dl. Workplace dust and mist concentrations ranged from 40 to 400microg per cubic meter (microg/m3). Breathing zone lead concentrations varied from 30 to 160microg/m3. Ten workers had lead exposures above the OSHA standard of 50microg/m3. Wipe samples detected lead in cars of workers. The authors conclude that reclamation of lead batteries presents a significant health hazard to the workers and their children.
JOCMA7; NIOSH-Author; Lead-poisoning; Epidemiology; Blood-analysis; Heavy-metals; Occupational-exposure; Families; Environmental-exposure; Industrial-hygiene
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Fiscal Year
Issue of Publication
Source Name
Journal of Occupational Medicine
Page last reviewed: October 5, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division