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Delaware Healthy Workplaces


Lead


Information Additional Resources
General Information

Lead, a bluish-gray metal, is considered one of the heavy metals. Lead is commonly found in the environment combined with other compounds to form ores. Lead is common in our environment as a soil contaminant, both from natural and man-made sources.

Lead FAQ

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Lead in Construction

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Lead in the Home

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Lead and Home Renovations
Uses

Until 1978, lead was a common component of paint. Lead has been used in gasoline, but that use has also stopped. Lead is still used in many other applications including batteries, ammunition, x-ray shielding and solder used in electronic components. Historically, lead has been used in crystal and china tableware. Hobbies such as fishing (weights and sinkers), painting and pottery can also contribute to lead exposure.

Health
Effects

Lead is well known to affect the neurological and social development of children. Learning disabilities, behavioral problems and permanent brain damage can result from exposure. Exposure to lead can also lead to problems with blood pressure and anemia. Lead is considered a probable human carcinogen.


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Lead in Construction


Information Additional Resources
General Information

Lead was once widely used in construction of buildings, bridges and other common structures. Though most applications have been banned or use has been voluntarily reduced, historic and present use places workers in the construction industry at risk for exposure to lead everyday.

Occupations and industries potentially exposed to lead include iron work, demolition work, painting, lead-based paint abatement work, plumbing, heating/airconditioning, electrical work and carpentry/renovation/remodeling. Plumbing, welding and painting are the construction tasks most commonly connected with overexposure to lead.

Exposure Limits
and Guidelines

OSHA

  • 0.050 mg/m3 (TWA)

NIOSH

  • 0.050 mg/m3 (TWA)
Uses

Older homes can be covered, literally, in lead based paint. Lead has been used for roofs, cornices, tank linings and can be found in plumbing and electrical system parts. While most residential uses of products containing lead have ceased, there is risk of exposure during construction and renovations involving older buildings, particularly those built before 1980.

Lead is still used in some commercial and industrial applications. Structures with exposed steel, such as bridges and towers, commonly involve paint and other lead containing components.

Lead FAQ

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Lead in the Workplace

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OSHA - Lead in
Construction Advisor
Health
Effects
  • Neurological Effects
    • changes in behavior
    • brain damage
  • Reproductive Effects
    • Lead is toxic to both male and female reproductive systems. Workers potentially exposed to lead who are actively seeking to have a child or who are pregnant should contact qualified medical personnel discuss the exposure and potential risks to development during pregnancy.
  • Other Effects
    • liver damage
    • kidney damage
Preventing Exposure
  • Medical Monitoring
    • OSHA requires that persons potentially exposed to lead at worked be tested on a regular basis.
  • Engineering Controls
    • ventilation
    • dust control and collection
  • Administrative Controls
    • worker training and education
    • proper project design and oversight
  • Personal Protective Equipment
    • respiratory protection
    • eye protection
    • protective clothing, including gloves and tyvek suit
  • Work Habits
    • Change clothes and wash prior to entering your car or home to prevent "take-home lead", which can cause health problems in members of your family.
    • Wash hands before eating, drinking, smoking, etc.

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