Lead is a naturally occurring metal found in the earth’s crust and in our water, soil, and air. Because of its durability and versatility, it has been used from as far back as 4000 B.C. to create tools, paints, and building supplies. Lead exposure over time, even in small amounts, is dangerous. It is especially important that workers who are exposed to lead on a regular basis are sufficiently protected on the job to prevent serious health problems.
How Lead Exposure Affects the Body
The World Health Organization classifies lead as one of the ten highly toxic substances that poses a major public health concern. Lead accumulates in the human body and is stored in the bones and teeth, and is distributed to the brain, liver, and other organs over time. There is no safe level of lead concentration and as exposure increases, so does the severity of symptoms.
Some of the signs of prolonged lead exposure in adults include headaches, fatigue, memory loss, high blood pressure, anemia, and other neurological and reproductive problems. Lead poisoning is extremely serious and is caused by breathing in or ingesting lead. Severe lead poisoning can cause coma, seizures, and result in fatality.
The Data on Lead Exposure
Workers in industries such as construction and manufacturing are at a greater risk for lead exposure because they often work with equipment and substances that contain lead. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that 1.6 million workers in the U.S. are potentially exposed to lead on the job. In California alone, the state Department of Health found that 6,000 workers tested between 2012 and 2014 had elevated levels of lead in their blood.
OSHA established an action plan for employers with workers exposed to lead above the permissible level. Many of these employers work in industries such as painting, demolition, plumbing, bridge work, and building renovation. OSHA’s action plan is designed to not only protect workers during their shifts, but to also prevent lead from getting on their body and clothing.
The action plan requires that employers test lead levels in the air; conduct regular blood tests for lead levels on workers; provide protective clothing and equipment; and provide showers, hand-washing stations, and changing areas for workers to use after their shifts. Workers exposed to lead should never bring shoes, clothing, and equipment home from work. If they must for any reason, they should be kept in a sealed bag separate from other belongings and always washed separately. These measures not only protect workers, but also their family members at home as pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure. Employers should also install systems to control dust and fumes containing lead from circulating.
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Fight for Workers Suffering from Lead Exposure
Workers who have been injured in a workplace accident or from lead exposure may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Workers’ Compensation benefits are designed to cover an ill or injured worker’s medical costs and lost income while they are unable to work. Our highly-experienced Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. will fight for you so that you can focus on your recovery. Call 866-881-8623 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout South Carolina at our Charleston, Aiken, Rock Hill, Florence, Sumter, and Columbia offices.