Historically, lead was one of the first agents identified as toxic. Today the primary route for exposure is through construction activity such as through sanding or sandblasting painted surfaces. Places where lead can also be encountered include firing ranges, and art studios. Work involving lead exposure is regulated by OSHA and the Department of Health Services.
Lead can cause developmental delays in children and upon elevated exposure can cause nervous system, reproductive and gastrointestinal symptoms. Symptoms of lead poisoning include weakness, excessive tiredness, irritability, constipation, anorexia, abdominal discomfort (colic), fine tremors, and wrist drop. Additionally, damage to the kidneys and the nervous system, anemia, high blood pressure, impotence, infertility, and reduced sex drive can also occur with overexposure to lead. Lead poisoning, neurological effects, and mental retardation have occurred in the children of workers engaged in the occupations mentioned above.
OSHA Lead Standard requires that employees be exposed to not more than 50ug/m3 for an 8 hour shift and if exposure is above 30ug/m3 certain requirements apply. If lead exposure is possible on the worksite, then air monitoring will be required to determine exposure levels. If monitoring and work practice evaluation indicates that exposure above the PEL for 30 or more days a year are likely, then a written program will be required. The program must include:
- Description of practices and control means
- Air Monitoring Data
- Respirator program
- If over PEL provision of work clothes and laundering
- HEPA vac or wet methods
- Change room showers >PEL
- Training including initial and annual
- Med surveillance including blood screening > PEL 30 + days/yr, medical exams
- Medical removal
- Posting of areas
Before engaging in work that may disturb a painted surface, you’ll first need to have that surface sampled for lead. To do this, you can contact safety at 265-5000.