Lead Paint Removal >> Work Related Lead Exposure

Laboratories performing lead analyses on blood samples drawn in California are required by law to report electronically all results to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (OLPPP) collects test results for adults 16 years of age and over and enters them into Work Related Lead Exposure the California Occupational Blood Lead Registry. 

We use this information to identify cases of lead poisoning that need follow-up as well as to target employers and industries for OLPPP’s prevention efforts. Scientists and medical professionals now recommend that blood lead levels (BLLs) be maintained below 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) to prevent long-term Work Related Lead Exposure health effects (OLPPP, 2009). 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Work Related Lead Exposure Surveillance Program (ABLES) of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have recently revised their definitions of "elevated” to reflect this new information (CDC, 2012; ABLES, 2009). OLPPP now defines an elevated BLL as a BLL at or above 10 µg/dL. 

In this report we discuss the limitations of our data, present the key findings for 2008- 2011, and briefly review our efforts to improve tracking of work-related lead overexposure. Limitations The data presented here are incomplete and cannot fully describe the magnitude and Work Related Lead Exposure distribution of elevated BLLs among California workers. The most significant limitation is that many employers fail to provide BLL testing to their lead-exposed workers. 

OLPPP previously (1996-2008) looked at how many employers were providing BLL testing in 5 industries in which significant lead exposure is possible: 87% of battery manufacturers, 56% of non-ferrous foundries (lead-using), 14% of radiator repair (copper-brass), 8% of painting companies (licensed Work Related Lead Exposure San Francisco painting contractors), and only 1% of wrecking and demolition companies were BLL testing (OLPPP, 2002; OLPPP, unpublished data, 2008). 

The result of this large testing deficiency is that we do not know the true numbers of California workers with elevated BLLs, Work Related Lead Exposure nor can we determine the relative risk of lead overexposure since the proportion of employers testing varies widely by industry. We believe that the numbers presented here likely represent a significant underestimate of the number of California workers overexposed to lead. 

Our data are also incomplete because the majority of BLL reports the program receives do not identify the individual’s employer, Work Related Lead Exposure making it difficult for us to determine if the exposure source is occupational and, if so, which industry the individual works in. 

OLPPP contacts the laboratory or the health care provider who ordered the test to obtain complete Work Related Lead Exposure information on all BLLs 10 µg/dL or above; however we do not have the resources to contact providers on the thousands of BLL results below 10 that lack employer information. 

Despite these limitations, the data we collect provide valuable information on industries where BLL testing is more consistent and those where more testing is needed. Additionally, Work Related Lead Exposure among industries where testing is more robust, BLL distributions shed light on which of those appear to be more successful in controlling worker exposure. 

We can learn from these findings and direct our prevention efforts to areas where more attention is needed to increase testing Work Related Lead Exposure and/or improve worker protections. Key findings for the Registry for the four-year period 2008-2011 Each year OLPPP receives over 56,000 reports for approximately 50,000 individuals. 

We do not know the type of lead exposure for the majority (~55%) of reports. (Table 1) For those individuals for whom we know the exposure source, approximately 17,000 – 18,000 are exposed at work Work Related Lead Exposure and approximately 2,000 have a non-occupational exposure. The findings below are limited to the reports where the workplace was identified as the source of exposure, and are limited to each worker’s highest BLL in that year.  

BLL Distribution: OLPPP received elevated BLL reports (10 µg/dL or greater) for 1,393 - 1,868 workers each year; 8-10% of the workers tested. (Table 2) Workers can be tested multiple times in one year, or Work Related Lead Exposure in succeeding years; the total number of individual workers with elevated BLLs between 2008 and 2011 was 3,615. 

These workers are at risk for long-term health effects such as hypertension and decrements in kidney and Work Related Lead Exposure cognitive function. Gender and Age: The overwhelming majority of workers with elevated BLLs reported to the Registry were male (96-97%), with an age range typical of a working population (88% between the ages of 20 and 59 years). 

Hispanic Surname: Workers with Hispanic surname were disproportionately represented among workers with elevated BLLs. California’s workforce is 36% Hispanic (BLS, 2011), Work Related Lead Exposure whereas the proportion of Hispanic surnames among individuals with elevated BLLs reported to the Registry was 64-70%, suggesting that Hispanic workers are more likely to be exposed to lead on the job. 

The proportion of individuals with Hispanic surnames Work Related Lead Exposure and BLLs below 10 µg/dL was 41-43%. Place of Employment: A large proportion of workers with elevated BLLs was employed in Los Angeles County (44-49%). This reflects the concentration of lead industries, as well as population, in this county. 

Riverside County had the next highest proportion of workers with elevated BLLs, at 7-9%. Place of Residence: The largest numbers of workers with elevated BLLs live in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, and Alameda counties. Children and pregnant woman living with these workers are at risk of take-home lead exposure and Work Related Lead Exposure may need follow-up by local childhood lead poisoning prevention programs. 

Industry Distribution, all reported workers: Individuals reported to the Registry (with elevated and non-elevated BLLs) worked in 212 different industries. However, Work Related Lead Exposure a few industries accounted for the largest number of workers receiving BLL tests: Remediation Services (primarily lead abatement); Storage Battery Manufacture; 

Site Preparation Contractors (primarily wrecking and demolition); Painting Contractors; Government Air, Water, and Waste Programs; Secondary Smelting (primarily battery recycling); and Recyclable Material (primarily scrap metal and Work Related Lead Exposure electronic recycling). OLPPP codes industries using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS, 2002). 

Type of Industry: 58% of workers with elevated BLLs reported to the Registry in 2011 worked in manufacturing, 17% worked in construction, Work Related Lead Exposure and 23% worked in other industries. BLL Distribution by Industry: The BLL distribution for reported workers varies significantly by industry. Among industries reported in 2011: 

Only 4% of workers in lead remediation and 5% of workers in wrecking and demolition had BLLs above 10 µg/dL; o Storage battery manufacture and secondary smelting (primarily battery recycling) had much higher percentages of workers with BLLs above 10 µg/dL (41% and 70% respectively); and Approximately one quarter of workers in two other industries of interest, painting and Work Related Lead Exposure scrap metal recycling, had BLLs above 10 µg/dL. 

By looking at detailed data on worker BLLs < 10 µg/dL, it is clear that many employers who test have been successful in controlling lead exposure. Due to significant under testing, Work Related Lead Exposure we cannot say whether these data represent the real BLL distribution in all of these industries. The exception to this is the battery manufacturing and recycling industries in which almost all employers conduct periodic BLL testing.

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