February 08, 2016

Getting the lead out

Frank Mirer professor in the CUNY School of Public Health in New York, The Synergist

Lead exemplifies the advance of authoritative conclusions about workplace hazards, especially potency, against the backdrop of no advance in regulatory protections. For lead, the advances in interpretation come from population studies rather than the pre-1975 occupational studies that are the basis of the OSHA regulation. The OSHA lead-in-air (LIA) limit, 50 µg/m3, is intended to limit employees’ body burden of lead, as indicated by lead in blood (LIB), to less than 50 µg/dl (100 grams of blood). The standard was promulgated in 1978, and was constrained by feasibility of engineering controls in the most difficult industry sector, smelters, as well as the health data of the time.

The 2012 authoritative review by the National Toxicology Program notes “sufficient” evidence for decreased glomerular filtration rate; the association of maternal lead-blood levels with reduced fetal growth at < 5 µg/dl in adults; and increased blood pressure, risk of hypertension, and incidence of essential tremor at <10 µg/dl. (This exhaustive collection of data, which was subjected to extensive peer review, noted other effects with “limited” evidence.) The issue for IHs should be adjusting the LIA limit to the more protective LIB criteria. ... read more

Posted In: Health and Safety, OSHA

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