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N Engl J Med. 1987 Jul 23;317(4):214-8.

Lead poisoning in automobile radiator mechanics.


Exposure to lead occurs during automobile radiator repair when soldered joints are heated, but this relatively common hazard has received little public recognition. We therefore studied lead exposure among automobile radiator mechanics in the Boston area. Twenty-seven shops were surveyed, and most were found to be small and poorly ventilated. Seventy-five workers were interviewed and tested for blood lead and free erythrocyte protoporphyrin levels. Fifty-six of the 75 actually repaired radiators, and they had a mean blood lead level of 37.1 micrograms per deciliter (range, 16 to 73). Thirty-nine percent of these mechanics had levels higher than 40 micrograms per deciliter; hematologic, neurologic, and renal effects are known to develop at or above this blood lead level. Multiple regression analysis showed that the number of radiator repair work stations (an index of exposure) was the variable most significantly associated with increased blood lead levels. We conclude that excessive exposure to lead occurs frequently among radiator repair workers and should be prevented by improved ventilation, engineering controls, and the use of respirators (if indicated) while working.

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