PaintSquare.com
Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram
Search the site

 

Download our free e-book! Overcoating bridges and other structures.

Coatings Industry News

Main News Page


Feds: Lead Risk for Painters Persists

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

More items for Health & Safety

Comment | More

Lead exposure on the job remains a significant health threat in painting and blasting, despite decades of improvement among other occupations and the general public, a new federal study reports.

Occupational exposure accounted for nine out of 10 cases of very high lead levels in the blood of adults tracked in a nine-year study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Nov. 29.

The study looked at 11,536 adults from 2002 to 2011 with "very high" blood lead levels (BLLs), defined as equal to or greater than 40 µg/dL.

Lead-Paint
Wikimedia Commons / Thester11

Although banned in the U.S. in 1978, lead-based paint is still present in millions of American homes, putting contractors at risk.

Among the "very high" BLL adults with a known exposure source, occupational exposures accounted for 91 percent of the group. In addition, 19 percent of the group showed elevated BLLs for two years or more—a finding that CDC called "of grave concern."

The data were drawn from CDC's Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES) program, which tracks elevated blood lead levels in U.S. adults.

Construction and Painting

Of 7,076 adults with high very blood lead levels whose known exposure source was their work, construction trades (comprised of painting and wallcovering contractors; highway, street and bridge construction; site preparation contractors; and other construction sectors) were one of the four largest categories represented, the data showed.

The other industries were manufacturing, remediation and other services, and mining.

Moreover, 49 percent of those 7,076 high-BLL adults hailed from just three NAICS occupational groups: painting and wallcovering contractors, nonferrous metal production and processing, and battery manufacturing, the CDC reported.

The painting and wallcovering contractors (NAICS Code 23832) accounted for 1,075 of the 7,076 high-BLL group exposed at work, putting them above the metal workers and below the battery manufacturers, CDC's data showed.

Battery-Recycling
NIOSH

A worker ladles molten recycled lead into billets. Battery manufacturing workers made up a significant share of workers with high blood lead levels.

(Painting, renovation and remodeling work also figured prominently in non-occupational exposure activities that caused high BLLs, CDC noted.)

Good News, Bad News

Significantly, the elevated levels persisted during a historical period that included a "remarkable reduction in environmental sources of lead, improved protection from occupational lead exposure, and an overall decreasing trend in the prevalence of elevated blood lead levels (BLLs) in U.S. adults," the agency said.

In general, CDC reported:

  • Lead exposures "continue to occur at unacceptable levels";
  • Blood lead levels are likely undertested and their results underreported; and
  • Lead levels once considered harmless are now known to have harmful effects, such as decreased kidney function.

The CDC designates 10 µg/dL as the reference BLL for adults; levels at or above that are considered elevated.

However, Occupational Safety and Health Administration lead standards do not require medical removal of a construction worker until his/her BLL reaches 50 µg/dL (60 µg/dL for general industry workers). And workers may return to work when their BLL falls below 40 µg/dL.

The study cited four case histories, including two painters, as examples of damaging occupational exposure.

Worker A: Bridge Painter/Blaster

Worker A, 48, worked for a bridge painting contractor and was responsible for recycling grit and steel shot from abrasive blasting operations. The worker used an air-supplied abrasive blasting hood for lead protection. CDC found that the worker had BLLs of 67 µg/dL in May and June of 2010.

Abrasive-Blasting
CDC

An abrasive blasting clean-up worker in the study (not pictured) showed a blood lead level of 67 µg/dL. CDC considers a level of 10 or more elevated.

He was removed from all work and received chelation treatments (therapy to remove heavy metals from the body). His BLL dropped to 42 µg/dL in July and to 26 µg/dL in September. As of February 2011, he was still removed from work on his doctor's orders.

Worker B: House Painter

Worker B, 46, was a painter for a small construction company who was seen in a hospital emergency room in December 2007 for severe stomach pain. His BLL was 143 µg/dL. At the time, the painter had been scraping paint from a house that was more than 100 years old with no respirator and no protective clothing except gloves.

"He was not informed about lead hazards," CDC said. "His employer did not provide laundry services or disposable clothing. No other source of lead expsoure was identified."

With treatment, the worker's BLL was recorded at 13 µg/dL 27 months later.

Causes

The study cites a variety of reasons for the problem, beginning with OSHA standards that set action levels far above the blood lead threshold that the CDC considers elevated.

Four adults with very high blood lead levels (≥ 40µg/dL) in multiple years
CDC Lead Chart
CDC

The CDC also points the finger at:

  • Examining physicians who do not advocate for more stringent worker protections;
  • Employers who fail to implement or enforce sufficient engineering protections and workplace controls; and
  • Workers who fail to comply with safe practices.

Finally, CDC notes, the ABLES program lacks the resources to investigate and refer to OSHA every high-BLL case.

Reducing lead levels in American workers relies on turning all of these factors around, the agency says.

   

Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Abrasive recycling; Bridges; Construction; Government; Health and safety; Historic Structures; Lead; Lead paint abatement; Painting Contractor; Residential contractors

Comment from Fred Salome, (12/10/2013, 6:30 PM)

This study confirms that lead paint continues to be a significant health risk for those working in our industry. Greater awareness is still needed despite the advances we have all made during the last 25 years, and stricter enforcement of WH&S controls remains critical.


Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Advertisements
 
Clemco Industries Corp.
 
Maximum Dust Suppression Systems Start at $14,950
 
The system comprises proven technology and equipment with user-friendly flexibility in mind. See it in action.
 

 
SEMicro Division, M.E. Taylor Engineering, Inc.
 
Coatings Adhesion Testers
 
The PATTI® accurately measures the bond strength between coating & substrate. Outfitted properly, the surface can be rough, porous, or curved & >10K psi strong!
 

 
Industrial Vacuum Equipment Corp.
 
Hurricane Vacuums
& Dust Collectors
 
Vacuum and dust collector hose, filters and related accessories.
IndustrialVacuum.com
 

 
Detail Masters
 
Overspray Removal
 
We offer professional, turnkey service and unparalleled quality!
Our process can save hundreds— even thousands of dollars. It's fast, environmentally safe and 100% guaranteed.
 

 
Blastox/The TDJ Group, Inc.
 
Blastox® - One Step Lead Abatement
 
Sandblast additive delivered to jobsite pre-blended to eliminate hazardous abrasive wastes. Why mix, meter or apply at the job-site? Blast with ease and
Let your painters paint!
1(800)-252-7869
 

 
Termarust Technologies
 
Termarust (HR CSA) Chemically Stops
Active Corrosion
 
Arch truss treated with Termarust's (HR CSA) in 2003. This steel arch bridge is rust free on all surfaces including the crevice corroded joints and connections.
 

 
US Minerals
 
US Minerals -
Black Magnum
 
With nationwide production and distribution capabilities, U.S. Minerals supplies a complete range of coal slag and other abrasives to meet all of your blasting needs.
 

 
Atlantic Design, Inc.
 
CLICK TO SEE...
 
what we did to this machine! Let ADI upgrade your machine, extending the life, efficiency, and value. Any make. Like new, but better! 866.Call.ADI
 

 
Absolute Equipment/Grand Rental Station
 
TIER 4 EQUIPMENT
 
We have Tier 4 Equipment including Air Compressors & Generators for Sale & Rent! Your job may now require Tier-4. www.absoluteequip.com or Call 412-931-6655.
 

 
Novatek Corporation
 
Novatek Corporation, Dustless Coatings Removal
 
Strip, clean and profile all dust free! Comply with new lead standards. Contact today: (866) 563-7800
 

 
 
 

Technology Publishing Co., 2100 Wharton Street, Suite 310, Pittsburgh PA 15203-1951

TEL 1-412-431-8300  • FAX  1-412-431-5428  •  EMAIL webmaster@paintsquare.com


The Technology Publishing Network

Durability + Design PaintSquare the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Paint BidTracker

 
EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About PaintSquare.com   |   Privacy policy   |   Terms & conditions   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us