Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Lead and Your
How might I be exposed to lead?
Lead can get into your body in two ways:
inhalation (breathing it in) and ingestion (eating it). You might breathe in
lead dust or lead fumes without even knowing it. You can swallow lead dust if it
gets in your food or drinks. You might even swallow lead dust if you eat without
washing your hands first.
What problems does lead cause?
Once lead gets into your body, it stays there
for a long time. It builds up over time even if you're only exposed to small
amounts of it. As lead builds up in your body, it can damage your brain,
kidneys, nerves and blood cells. This is called lead poisoning. As a general
rule, the more lead you have in your body, the more likely it is that you'll
have health problems. Your chance of having health problems goes up the longer
you have a high level of lead in your body. We don't know just how much lead
causes health problems, because the effects of lead are different in everyone.
What are the signs of lead
These are some of the early signs of lead
- Muscle and joint pain
- Stomachaches and cramps
What is my
employer's responsibility for lead in the workplace?
The Lead Standard is a federal and state
regulation (law) that requires employers to follow guidelines to protect workers
from harmful lead exposure. An important part of this standard says that lead in
the air of a workplace shouldn't be more than 50 µg per meter, averaged
over 8 hours. Under the Lead Standard, workers have the right to the following:
- To receive a copy of the Standard.
- To receive a copy of air monitoring results.
- To receive medical evaluation and monitoring if
they are exposed to airborne lead levels above 30 µg per meter for more
than 30 days a year. If this occurs, the employer must provide workers with a
medical surveillance program. This program would include blood testing, a
lead-specific medical exam, treatment (if needed), removal from further exposure
to lead if health is at risk, and medical clearance for use of a respirator. In
some circumstances, workers can be transferred to a job that doesn't expose them
to lead, without loss of pay or benefits.
Who can help me
understand my blood lead test?
Your doctor and your company safety officer can
help if you're worried about lead exposure. Your doctor can test your blood for
lead. Your doctor can also help you understand your lead level and the effects
it might have on your health. It's important for your doctor to know that you
are exposed to lead at work even if you don't notice any health problems.
How can I protect myself from lead
The company safety officer can help you find out
if your work area has been checked for high levels of lead in the air. He or she
can also help you avoid exposure by giving you protective equipment. You can
protect yourself and your family with these basic safe work
- Wear separate work clothes and shoes or boots
while at work.
- Don't wear your work clothes and shoes or boots
home from work, and don't wear them when you aren't at work.
- Wash and dry your work clothes separately. Don't
mix your work clothes with clothes from other people in your family when the
laundry is done.
- Wash your hands and face before you eat, drink or
- At work, eat, drink or smoke only in areas that
are free of lead dust and fumes.
- Avoid stirring up lead-containing dust with dry
sweeping; wet cleaning is safer.
- If you wear a respirator at work, make sure it