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Occupational exposures, respiratory symptoms, and blood lead levels among Latino day workers in greater New Orleans.

Rabito FA
Silver Spring, MD: CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training, 2010 Sep; :1-14
Background: Large data gaps exist in our understanding of the occupational experience and health profile of Latino migrant workers in non-agriculture settings. Current research is limited to cross-sectional studies with limited inclusion of both undocumented workers and day laborers. Data on health endpoints beyond injury are sparse. To address these data gaps, we conducted a 6-month study of Latino migrant workers in New Orleans, Louisiana. The purpose of the study was to describe the occupational experience over time, to document occupational health and safety risks and to correlate risk with selected health outcomes including injury, respiratory symptoms and blood lead level. Methods: A six-month prospective study was conducted within a larger cohort of migrant workers being followed for STI risk. At baseline data were collected on job title, job tasks, duration of time spent working, use of personal protective equipment and selected health symptoms in the previous six months. Job data was updated monthly for the following six months. At the six-month follow-up health symptoms were again assessed and blood lead level was measured. Results: Seventy-nine men were enrolled in the study; 73 had complete data (baseline survey, at least 3 followup surveys, 6-month survey) resulting in a retention rate of 92.4 percent. Eighty-nine men provided blood samples for lead sampling. The majority of men worked in the construction industry and found full time work averaging 43 hours per week for the duration of the study. Use of personal protective was low and use of any type of respirator declined significantly over time. Study participants had relatively stable employment, having an average of three jobs and performing an average of 3.5 different tasks over 12 months. Respiratory symptoms were commonly reported and symptoms often improved when away from work suggesting that workplace irritant exposure is likely. Blood lead levels ranged from .6 to 38.4 microg/dL and approximately half of participants had levels that, if persist, are known to be associated with adverse health effects. Construction workers were significantly more likely to have higher lead levels compared to other occupations. Although the rate of injury was low, 75 percent of injuries reported required hospitalization or a visit to the emergency room. Conclusion: This pilot study gives insight into the occupational experience of a cohort of Latino migrant workers. Construction work is common and related to increased lead levels yet use of personal protective equipment is limited. Although respiratory symptoms were common, and improved when away from work, limited sample size prevented detailed analysis of the occupations predictive of health symptoms. More information on the pattern of injury is needed. Future research should focus on expanding the size of the cohort and comparing the occupational experience of migrant day laborers to those of other group of similarly employed workers. Five Key Points: 1. The majority of the cohort worked in construction or construction-related activities however the percentage dropped over the course of the study from 81.4 percent at baseline to 54.8 percent at the six month follow-up. 2. Of men working in an occupation where respirator use was either recommended or required (according to OSHA guidelines), at baseline 34.5 percent and 41.5 percent reported always wearing a respirator at baseline and six month follow-up respectively. 3. Over the follow-up period, the participants held an average of 3 jobs and changed job tasks a mean number of 3.5 times. 4. Over half of the participants (51 percent) reported being somewhat to severely affected by respiratory symptoms, 45 percent by headaches and 45 percent by sino-nasal symptoms. Of those with respiratory symptoms, 41 percent reported that their symptoms sometimes to always improved when away from work, and similarly, 41 percent of those with headaches and 39 percent of those with sino-nasal symptoms reported improved symptoms when away from the workplace. 5. Working in construction is significantly associated (p=.03) with higher blood lead levels compared to other occupations.
Construction; Construction-equipment; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Racial-factors; Exposure-assessment; Respiratory-system-disorders; Blood-analysis; Blood-samples; Lead-compounds; Lead-absorption; Worker-health; Risk-analysis; Risk-factors; Biological-monitoring; Job-analysis; Men; Respirators; Personal-protective-equipment
The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), 8484 Georgia Avenue, Suite 1000, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Publication Date
Document Type
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Construction; Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
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Source Name
Occupational Exposures, Respiratory Symptoms, and Blood Lead Levels among Latino Day Workers in Greater New Orleans
Performing Organization
CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training, Silver Spring, Maryland
Page last reviewed: March 18, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division