Occupational and Take-home Lead Exposure Among Lead Oxide Manufacturing Employees, North Carolina, 2016

In 2016, North Carolina blood lead level (BLL) surveillance activities identified elevated BLLs among 3 children exposed to take-home lead by household members employed at a lead oxide manufacturing facility. In this study, the authors characterised BLLs among employees and associated children and identified risk factors for occupational and take-home lead exposure.

BLL surveillance data for 2012-2016 was reviewed to identify facility employees and associated children. A BLL ?5 ?g/dL was considered elevated for adults and children and compared adult BLLs with regulatory limits and recommended health-based thresholds. In addition, an environmental investigation was conducted and current employees were interviewed about exposure controls and clean-up procedures. During 2012-2016, 5 children associated with facility employees had a confirmed BLL ?5 ?g/dL. Among 77 people employed during 2012-2016, median BLLs increased from 22 ?g/dL (range, 4-45 ?g/dL) in 2012 to 37 ?g/dL (range, 16-54 ?g/dL) in 2016. All employee BLLs were <60 ?g/dL, the national regulatory threshold for immediate medical removal from lead exposure; however, 55 (71%) had a BLL ?20 ?g/dL, a recommended health-based threshold for removal from lead exposure. Because of inadequate controls in the facility, areas considered clean were visibly contaminated with lead dust. Employees reported bringing personal items to work and then into their cars and homes, resulting in take-home lead exposure. Integration of child and adult BLL surveillance activities identified an occupational source of lead exposure among workers and associated children. The authors concluded that the findings support recent recommendations that implementation of updated lead standards will support better control of lead in the workplace and prevent lead from being carried home.

Authors: Rinsky JL, Higgins S, Angelon-Gaetz K, Hogan D, Lauffer P, Davies M, Fleischauer A, Musolin K, Gibbins J, MacFarquhar J, Moore Z. ; Full Source: Public Health Reports. 2018 Sep 19:33354918795442. doi: 10.1177/0033354918795442. [Epub ahead of print]