Redesigned NIOSH Web Page on Lead Expands Contents, Speeds Navigation


NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser, (202) 245-0645
May 21, 2010

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has posted an expanded, updated web page on preventing work-related lead exposures. The page has also been redesigned to make it easier and faster for users to find the contents that likely will be of most interest to them.

The lead topic page is posted at Primary links on the page provide easy access to individual sections containing information for workers, employers, and researchers and public health professionals, respectively. Other primary links lead to sections containing resources for lead safety training and medical guidelines, publications about workplace lead, and related websites.

“Since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, the nation has made much progress in eliminating or minimizing work-related exposures to lead, but risks still persist,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “Workers’ families may be at risk as well, if lead is inadvertently tracked home on work clothing and shoes. NIOSH is pleased to expand its web resources for preventing such hazards, and to make the web portal easier to use.”

The effects of high, short-term lead exposures can include tiredness, weakness, irritability, headache, and pain or tingling in the hands and feet. Long-term exposures bring risk of more severe impairments of brain and nervous-system functions, heart disease, and kidney disease. Lead can cross the placental barrier, which means that pregnant women who are exposed to lead also expose their unborn child. Lead can damage a developing baby’s nervous system. Even low-level lead exposures in developing babies have been found to affect behavior and intelligence. Lead exposure can cause miscarriage, stillbirths, and (in both men and women) infertility.

Children tend to show signs of severe lead toxicity at lower levels of lead than adults. Lead poisoning has occurred in children whose parents accidentally brought home lead dust on their clothing. Neurological effects and mental retardation have also occurred in children whose parents may have job-related lead exposure.

Work-related exposures to lead can occur in construction, automobile repair, bridge repair, battery manufacturing and recycling, and lead mining. Exposures can also occur in lead refining, lead smelting, manufacture of ceramics, plumbing and pipe-fitting, and welding, as well as in many other industries and occupations. Lead fumes or lead dust can be inhaled. Lead dust can be ingested. Some studies have shown that lead can be absorbed through the skin. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require employers to assess the potential for work-related exposures to lead in their workplaces, and to control such exposures.

NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injury, illness, and death, in partnership with OSHA and other diverse stakeholders. More information about NIOSH can be found at

Page last reviewed: August 6, 2012