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Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of employees' exposures to lead, noise, and heat at an automotive lead-acid battery recycling company.

King BS; Musolin K; Ceballos D; Brueck SE; Beaucham C
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2012-0071-3224, 2014 Oct; :1-41
The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from employees at a battery recycling plant in Puerto Rico. Employees were concerned about exposures to lead and noise. The company collected lead-acid automotive batteries and operated a secondary lead smelter 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The company had 106 employees. We visited the plant in April 2012 and September 2012. We observed work practices; sampled for lead in air and on surfaces; interviewed employees about their medical and work history; looked at the company's health and safety programs and employee blood lead test records; and measured employees' noise exposures. We found (1) airborne lead overexposures among foundry, battery breaker, and some warehouse and maintenance employees; (2) lead on most work surfaces and on employees' skin after they took a shower at the end of the work day; (3) 85% of interviewed employees reported at least one symptom that could be related to lead overexposure; (4) 78% of employees had an elevated average blood lead level (at or above 10 µg/dL) even though average blood lead levels have declined since 2009; and (5) inadequate local exhaust ventilation. We also found employees were overexposed to noise and had the potential to be exposed to heat stress conditions. The company did not have a hearing conservation or a heat stress management program. The respiratory protection program was deficient because some respirators did not have a protection factor sufficient for the employee's lead exposure, training was not conducted annually, and respirators were worn and stored incorrectly. Employees lacked knowledge about the health effects of lead and how they could help protect themselves. We recommended the company (1) install ventilated enclosures around the battery breaker and shredder, (2) provide more local exhaust ventilation, (3) make a path so employees can go from the clean locker room to the lunchroom without crossing lead-contaminated areas, (4) continue blood lead testing of employees, (5) provide more protective respirators for certain jobs, and (6) stop dry sweeping floors. We also recommended the employer start hearing conservation and heat stress management programs, improve the respiratory protection and hazard communication programs, start a health and safety committee, and encourage employees to report health concerns that may be related to their work. We recommended employees (1) wear all required PPE, (2) wash their hands using a lead removal cleaner before eating, drinking, and leaving work, (3) leave work clothes or boots at the plant, (4) drink plenty of water at work and take rest breaks, and (5) participate in the health and safety committee.
Region-2; Health-hazards; Employee-exposure; Motor-vehicle-parts; Lead-compounds; Noise; Heat; Acids; Smelters; Smelting; Exposure-assessment; Exposure-levels; Exposure-limits; Air-sampling; Sampling; Blood-sampling; Foundries; Foundry-workers; Noise-exposure; Heat-stress; Work-environment; Environmental-exposure; Environmental-hazards; Industrial-processes; Exhaust-ventilation; Hearing; Respirators; Training; Ventilation; Author Keywords: Secondary Smelting, Refining, and Alloying of Nonferrous Metal; lead; noise; take-home contamination; respirators; heat stress; automotive battery recycling; Puerto Rico
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2012-0071-3224; M112014
NIOSH Division
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: January 27, 2023
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division