A report shows that among industrial workers, males between
the ages of 20-59 have the highest blood lead levels.
A recent report from California's Department of Public Health - Occupational Health Branch showed concerning trends in lead work. According to the study, more than 6,000 industry workers presented with elevated blood lead levels.
The threshold for elevated blood lead levels is defined as more than than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL). Exposure at levels higher than 5 µg/dL has been linked to high blood pressure, kidney disease, reproductive dysfunction, cognitive impairment, and even death. Because lead exposure is accumulative, even small levels of exposure over time can cause adverse health outcomes.
In addition to identifying industrial workers with disproportionately high blood levels, the report found that the majority of those affected were male, 20-59 years of age, and had possible Hispanic heritage. The report also found blood levels of 40 µg/dL and higher in firearm industry (shooting ranges, gun ammunition manufacturing, security training) and construction workers.
The findings are a significant reminder of the importance of worker safety in industrial industries. The report cites that many employers fail to provide blood lead level testing to their lead-exposed workers; for example, only 56% of lead-using non-ferrous foundries regularly test their employees for lead.
As a result of this report, California's Department of Public Health is providing free blood lead testing to workers who do not receive it from their employers nor have access through health insurance. Since the report's publication, 160 workers have received free testing.
The best way to prevent elevated blood lead levels to is to limit exposure in the first place. To read the entire report, visit the California Department of Public Health's publication. To learn more about EPA lead certification and lead safety, visit Zack Academy's lead homepage.