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A comprehensive exposure assessment in a Texas battery manufacturing plant: exposure by multiple routes, deficiencies in a respiratory protection program, and "lead for lunch."

Esswein E; Boeniger M; Hall R; Mead K
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 19-23, 1997, Dallas, Texas. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 1997 May; :72
The Texas Department of Health requested NIOSH evaluate a battery manufacturing plant to determine if upgrading plant engineering controls would result in an expected reduction in employee exposure to lead (Pb). An initial evaluation showed employee PBZ samples> 50 ug/m3, Pb contamination on cafeteria tables, and documented employee hand contamination. The presence of Pb inside respirator facepieces was also confirmed. An investigation of lead exposure via multiple routes was conducted. PBZ samples in pasting, first assembly, and pouching were in a range of 68 ug/m3 to 447 ug/m3, 15ug/m3 to 418 ug/m3, and 50 ug/m3 to 77 ug/m3, respectively. Lead contamination was found throughout the cafeteria; 14 samples from 7 tables averaged 506 ug Pb/ft2, 2 samples from hard surfaces in the cafeteria food service line contained 140 and 320 ug Pb/ft2, knobs on a cafeteria door inside/outside the cafeteria had 90 and 160 ug Pb/wipe. Lead was found on kitchen cutting boards (trace to 130 ug Pb/ft2). No statistical difference in wipe sample pairs was determined from samples collected on the same cafeteria tables (p=0.2). However, hand wipe samples collected before and after employees ate lunch revealed a statistically significant (p=0.03) increase of Pb on these employees' hands. Regarding respirators, a close examination of several HEPA filters revealed visible damage (indentations in the filters), which NIOSH traced to respirator "cleaning" practices which involved cartridges being rapped on hard surfaces to dislodge accumulated lead dust so that cartridges could be reused. This NIOSH investigation provides insight regarding risk factors for multiple routes of exposure to Pb. The study conclusively identifies the fundamental importance of vigilant plant and personal hygiene, the need for good respiratory protection programs, and suggests that changes to engineering controls alone, while judicious, would not have reduced all exposures at this plant.
Battery-manufacturing-industry; Engineering-controls; Engineering; Exposure-levels; Lead-compounds; Lead-dust; Air-contamination; Respirators; Face-masks; Statistical-analysis; Industrial-hygiene; Respiratory-protective-equipment
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American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 19-23, 1997, Dallas, Texas
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division