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Very Low Levels Carry Risk

Lead Protection Resources
From the LHSFNA

Safety and Health on Bridge Repair, Renovation, and Demolition Projects, a collaborative project of the Federal Highway Administration and the LHSFNA, provides in-depth information about best practices when working around lead.

Lead Poisoning, a health alert from the LHSFNA, informs about the dangers of lead and practices that protect against lead exposure. It can be ordered through the Fund’s Publications Catalogue.

“New studies of low-level lead add to evidence that OSHA’s permissible exposure limit for lead in construction is inadequate,” says LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan. “More must be done to protect Laborers and their families from lead poisoning.”

Alternate description

General President
Terry O’Sullivan

The studies, now under review by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program (NTP), indicate that damage to health begins at lower levels of exposure than previously thought.

The NTP research finds sufficient evidence of increased health problems at blood lead levels (BLLs) of less than five micrograms per deciliter (ug/dl). Low BLL problems include increased attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), lower IQ and decreased kidney function in children and increased diagnosis of hypertension and deaths from cardiovascular disease in adults.

LIUNA Training’s Lead Renovator Curriculum prepares Laborers to perform renovation work using lead safe work practices. The 16-hour course meets all EPA and OSHA training requirements under 40 CFR Part 745.225 and 29 CFR Part 1926.62. Lead Renovator is mandatory for all workers conducting renovation activities where lead-based paint is present in target housing and child occupied facilities. Laborers who complete the program earn individual certification, which is good for five years.

For more information, call 860-974-0800.

Under the present OSHA standard and PEL (50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour workday), medical attention is not required until BLLs reach 40 ug/dl.

Clearly, the present standard is not adequately protective. Moreover, if workers do not follow proper clean-up procedures, the risk is high that the lead they bring home on their clothes and bodies will cause dangerously high BLLs in their children as well.

High BLLs can cause vomiting, staggering walk, muscle weakness, seizures or coma.

OSHA standard 1926.62 establishes rules for lead removal and disposal and requires employers to provide personal protection equipment (PPE) and clean, protective work clothing. Employers also must ensure that workers change out of work clothing before leaving the jobsite and that they shower before leaving work at the end of the day.

“Unfortunately, these precautions are not a guarantee,” warns O’Sullivan. “As long as the present PEL remains in effect, the health of construction workers and their families is at risk.”

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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