Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Lead and Your Health
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 poisoning?
These are some of the early signs of lead poisoning:
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:
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 exposure?
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 practices: