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Skin and surface lead contamination, hygiene programs, and work practices of bridge surface preparation and painting contractors.

Virji MA; Woskie SR; Pepper LD
J Occup Environ Hyg 2009 Feb; 6(2):131-142
A 2005 regulatory review of the lead in construction standard by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) noted that alternative pathways of exposure can be as significant as inhalation exposure and that noncompliance with the standard pertaining to hygiene facilities and practices was the second most commonly violated section of the standard. Noncompliance with provisions of the standard and unhealthy work and hygiene practices likely increase the likelihood of take-home lead via contaminated clothing, automobiles, and skin, thus contributing to elevated blood lead levels (BLL) among construction workers and their family members. We performed a cross-sectional study of bridge painters working for small contractors in Massachusetts to investigate causes of persistent elevated BLLs and to assess lead exposures. Thirteen work sites were evaluated for a 2-week period during which surface and skin wipe samples were collected and qualitative information was obtained on personal hygiene practices, decontamination and hand wash facilities, and respiratory protection programs. Results showed lead contamination on workers' skin, respirators, personal automobiles, and the decontamination unit, indicating a significant potential for take-home lead exposure. Overall, the geometric mean (GM) skin lead levels ranged from 373 microg on workers' faces at end of shift to 814 microg on hands at break time. The overall GM lead level inside respirators was 143 microg before work and 286 microg after work. Lead contamination was also present inside workers' personal vehicles as well as on surfaces inside the clean side of the decontamination unit. Review of the respiratory protection programs, work site decontamination and hand wash facilities, and personal hygiene practices indicated that these factors had significant impact on skin and surface contamination levels and identified significant opportunities for improving work site facilities and personal practices. Elevated lead exposure and BLL can be minimized by strict adherence to the OSHA provisions for functioning decontamination and hygiene facilities and healthy personal hygiene practices.
Occupational exposure; Occupational hazards; Aerosol particles; Statistical analysis; Environmental contamination; Environmental exposure; Environmental hazards; Work analysis; Work environment; Work practices; Workplace studies; Work areas; Painters; Painting; Paints; Lead absorption; Lead compounds; Lead dust; Lead fumes; Construction workers; Skin exposure; Safety education; Safety practices; Qualitative analysis; Personal protective equipment; Protective equipment; Training; Author Keywords: Bridge painting; Construction industry; Lead exposure assessment; Personal hygiene; Skin exposures; Surface contamination; Work practices
Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA
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Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
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Boston University, Boston, MA
Page last reviewed: June 15, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division