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Personal exposure, behavior, and work site conditions as determinants of blood lead among bridge painters.

Rodrigues EG; Virji MA; McClean MD; Weinberg J; Woskie S; Pepper LD
J Occup Environ Hyg 2010 Feb; 6(2):80-87
Bridge painters are exposed to lead during several job tasks performed during the workday, such as sanding, scraping, and blasting. After the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard was passed in 1993 to control lead exposures among construction workers including bridge painters, this study was conducted among 84 bridge painters in the New England area to determine the significant predictors of blood lead levels. Lead was measured in personal air and hand wipe samples that were collected during the 2-week study period and in blood samples that were collected at the beginning and at the end of the study period. The personal air and hand wipe data as well as personal behaviors (i.e., smoking, washing, wearing a respirator) and work site conditions were analyzed as potential determinants of blood lead levels using linear mixed effects models. Our results show that the mean air lead levels over the 2-week period were the most predictive exposure measure of blood lead levels. Other individual-level significant predictors of blood lead levels included months worked on bridge painting crews, education, and personal hygiene index. Of the site-level variables investigated, having a containment facility on site was a significant predictor of blood lead levels. Our results also indicate that hand wipe lead levels were significantly associated with higher blood lead levels at the end of the study period compared with the beginning of the study period. Similarly, smoking on site and respirator fit testing were significantly associated with higher blood lead levels at the end of the study period. This study shows that several individual-level and site-level factors are associated with blood lead levels among bridge painters, including lead exposure through inhalation and possible hand-to-mouth contact, personal behaviors such as smoking on site, respirator fit testing, and work site conditions such as the use of better containment facilities. Accordingly, reduction in blood lead levels among bridge painters can be achieved by improving these workplace practices.
Air sampling; Behavior patterns; Blood sampling; Construction industry; Construction workers; Exposure assessment; Exposure levels; Lead absorption; Lead dust; Lead fumes; Occupational exposure; Occupational hazards; Painting; Paints; Personal protective equipment; Protective equipment; Qualitative analysis; Respiratory protection; Safety practices; Sampling; Statistical analysis; Surface contamination; Work practices; Work areas; Work environment; Work practices; Author Keywords: air lead levels; blood lead levels; bridge painters; hand wipes; lead; work site conditions
Ema G. Rodrigues, Harvard School of Public Health, Environmental Health, 665 Huntington Avenue Building, Room 1406, Boston, MA 02115
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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