Lead is a metal that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust, but human activity — mining, burning fossil fuels and manufacturing — has caused it to become more widespread. Lead was also once a key ingredient in paint and gasoline and is still used in batteries, solder, pipes, pottery, roofing materials and some cosmetics.
Lead in paint
The use of lead-based paints for homes, children’s toys and household furniture has been banned in the United States since 1978. But lead-based paint is still on walls and woodwork in many older homes, apartments and buildings.
Lead pipes, brass plumbing fixtures and copper pipes soldered with lead can release lead particles into tap water.
Lead particles that have settled onto soil from gasoline or paint can last for years. Lead contaminated soil is a major problem around highways and in some urban settings. Lead can also be found in the soil surrounding older buildings and homes.
Dust in buildings
Dust circulating within a building can come from old paint chipping from the walls or window frames, contaminated soil brought in from the outside, or when construction is taking place.
Where is lead used today?
The primary use of lead in the U.S. is for automobile lead-acid storage batteries, a type of rechargeable electric battery which uses an almost pure lead alloy. Lead-formed alloys are typically found in ammunition, pipes, cable covering, building material, solder (pipe fittings), radiation shielding, collapsible tubes, and fishing weights. Lead is also used in ceramic glazes and as a stabilizer in plastics.
OSHA states that, “Employers are required to protect workers from inorganic lead exposure covering general industry (1910.1025), shipyards (1915.1025), and construction (1926.62). The lead standards establish a permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3 of lead over an eight-hour time-weighted-average for all employees covered. The standards also set an action level of 30 µg/m3, at which an employer must begin specific compliance activities.”
Who is exposed to lead in workplace settings?
OSHA estimates that approximately 804,000 workers in general industry and an additional 838,000 workers in construction are potentially exposed to lead. Construction workers are exposed to lead during the removal, renovation, or demolition of structures painted with lead pigments. They may also be exposed during “installation, maintenance, or demolition of lead pipes and fittings, lead linings in tanks and radiation protection, leaded glass, work involving soldering, and other work involving lead metal or lead alloys. In general industry, workers come in contact with lead in solder, plumbing fixtures, rechargeable batteries, lead bullets, leaded glass, brass, or bronze objects, and radiators. Lead exposure can occur not only in the production of these kinds of objects but also in their use (e.g., firing ranges), repair (e.g., radiator repair), and recycling (e.g., lead-acid battery recycling).” Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over a period of months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.
Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are the most common sources of lead poisoning. Other sources include contaminated air, water and soil. Adults who work with batteries, do home renovations or work in auto repair shops also may be exposed to lead.
According to the Mayo Clinic, children are primarily at risk, but lead poisoning is also dangerous for adults and can occur in the workplace.
Signs and symptoms in adults may include:
High blood pressure
Declines in mental functioning
Pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities
Reduced sperm count, abnormal sperm
Miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women
G2’s Lead Testing Services
Water Testing: Water is tested for lead by collecting a series of water samples targeting the city-supplied water to the building. The samples are collected first thing in the morning after the water has sat in the pipes overnight.
Indoor Air Quality Testing: G2 collects air quality samples to be tested for lead and lead dust particulates.
Soil Testing: Possibly contaminated soil samples are collected from around the building and tested for the presence of lead.
Contact us for any of your environmental testing needs. We’re here to help!