It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the workplace environment does not exceed exposure limits. Workplace exposure limits set safety margins to protect workers from overexposure to hazardous materials such as lead. Employers are required to comply with OSHA standards, including blood lead level testing, at or above the OSHA action level (TWA of 30 µg/m3 over an 8-hour work shift.)
OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL)
- lead exposure cannot be greater than 50 µg/m3 as a TWA over an 8-hour work shift.
- When work shifts exceed 8 hours, PEL = 400/hours worked.
NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL):
- A time-weighted average (TWA) of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (50 µg/m3) over an 8-hour work shift.
Prevent further contamination
Workers can be exposed to lead via inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through their skin. Lead fumes and dust do not have an odor and are not visible in the air. To avoid transporting lead dust from the workplace to your home:
- Change into work clothes and shoes that stay at the workplace.
- When bringing work clothes home, put them in a plastic bag to avoid contaminating your car. Wash these items separately from all other laundry and rerun the empty washing machine to rinse out any lead.
- Take a shower and rinse your hair as soon as you get home to avoid contaminating furniture or spreading lead dust to other people.
- Wash your hands with soap specifically designed to remove lead before you eat, drink, or smoke
- Clean your work area throughout the day with wet cleaning methods or a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
- Wear required personal protective equipment (PPE) such as goggles, gloves, and boots.
Symptoms and effects of chronic exposure include infertility, reduced sperm count, decreased lung function, bone or tooth loss, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, depression, irritability, distraction and forgetfulness, and altered moods or behaviors.
Symptoms of acute exposure include a metallic taste, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, dehydration, headache, exhaustion, irritability, weakness, loss of appetite, memory loss, and pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet. Acute exposure can also be linked to anemia, kidney or brain damage, and death.