With the Flint lead water crisis, lead poisoning has become a trending topic of discussion. While children have a higher risk exposure from lead, according to the Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES) program, ninety-four percent of adults with elevated blood lead levels (BLL) are exposed through the workplace.
Primary lead exposures are occupational and occur in lead related industries such as refining, lead smelting, and manufacturing. According to the United States Department of Labor, there are 14 lead producing plants, which accounts for ninety-nine percent of U.S. secondary production. Other areas of exposure include home renovations (a frequent source of exposure), car repairs, electronic soldering, molding of bullets, fishing sinkers, and glass or metal soldering. Workers are exposed to lead through inhaling lead dusts and lead oxide fumes, as well as through eating and drinking near lead contaminated areas.
Ingestion of lead can cause irreversible health damage. BLL of more than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (>10 µg/dL) is considered high. The National Toxicology program concludes that there is sufficient evidence of adverse health effects with BLL of <10 µg/dL. Adverse health effects include a wide range of health issues, from neurological to renal. Health effects include increased blood pressure, increased risk of hypertension, and increased evidence of essential tremor. Individuals with BLL of <5 µg/dL showed decreased glomerular filtration rate, reduced fetal growth in women, and adverse changes in sperm parameters and increased time to pregnancy.
Lead poisoning is preventable through many different ways, such as avoiding carrying lead home on clothes, cleaning exhaust ventilations, wearing personal protective equipment, and through improved lead safety practice.
Written by: Sweeta Jura