From Our 2009 Archives

Lead Exposure in Workplace Still a Problem

THURSDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- On-the-job lead exposure continues to be a hazard for U.S. workers, a new government report shows.

Although the rate of elevated lead blood levels among employed adults declined overall between 1994 and 2007, there was a slight increase in cases between 2005 and 2007, according to a report in the April 17 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data was taken from by 37 states in 2005, and 38 states in 2006 and 2007. National rates of elevated blood lead levels declined from 14 per 100,000 employed adults in 1994 to 7.8 per 100,000 adults in 2007. Between 2004 and 2005, that rate dropped 4%, from 7.5 per 100,000 adults to 7.2 per 100,000 adults. However, it increased 3% between 2005 and 2006/2007, from 7.2 per 100,000 adult to 7.4 per 100,000 adults.

The troubling trend dovetails with recent research about the toxicity of lead even at low doses, the researchers noted. The findings also highlight the need for stronger efforts by industry, labor, government and others to reduce occupational exposures in businesses such as battery manufacturing, mining of lead and zinc ores, and painting and paper-hanging. There also needs to be an effort to educate the public on how to prevent non-occupational exposures from recreational, home improvement and food sources, the study suggests.

According to the report, some of the interventions could include follow-up interviews with doctors, employers and workers; investigations of work sites; technical assistance; getting consultation and enforcement help from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; and educational materials and outreach programs to alert the public to the health threat that lead exposure poses.

--HealthDay News Staff

SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, news release, April 16, 2009

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