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Am Ind Hyg Assoc J. 1997 Jun;58(6):447-54.

Elevated lead contamination in homes of construction workers.

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  • 1National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, OH 45226, USA.


National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health investigators studied lead exposures among 37 families of construction workers; 22 neighborhood families with no known lead exposures were included for comparison. Workers were identified as having blood lead levels at or above 25 micrograms/dL. This article reports the levels of lead contamination on hands and interior surfaces of homes and automobiles of study participants. Results indicate that the hands of lead-exposed workers were seven times more contaminated with lead compared with control workers; no difference was found between exposed and control family members' hands. Surface lead contamination was significantly higher in automobiles driven by the lead-exposed workers; some locations, such as armrests, were 10 times more contaminated for the exposed group. High lead loadings in lead workers' automobiles were found on the driver's floor (geometric mean [GM] = 1100 micrograms/m2), driver's armrest (2000 micrograms/m2), and passenger's armrest (1200 micrograms/m2). Surface lead concentrations were significantly higher for exposed homes compared with control homes in rooms where work clothing was changed (GM = 370 versus 120 ppm; p = 0.005). While environmental sources of lead were also evaluated, study results strongly suggest that construction workers' occupational exposures together with poor hygiene practices were the primary causes of lead contamination. Requirements intended to prevent "take-home" lead exposures were reported by workers in this study to be infrequently followed by employers. These findings may be limited in representativeness since only highly exposed workers were selected from a specific geographic area. Regardless, targeted education and enforcement efforts are necessary to help ensure that preventive measures are adequately practiced throughout the construction industry.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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