15 Mar Workplace Lead Exposure
Some researchers believe the decline and fall of the Roman Empire were at least partially attributable to widespread lead poisoning among members of the ruling elite. Many wealthier citizens of ancient Rome had fresh water and wastewater disposal piped into and out of their homes. Unfortunately, the use of lead piping was extensive.
While not understood 2,000 years ago, the dangers of lead exposure are well-recognized today, and it is no longer used in products such as paint, solder and caulking and leaded gasoline. Arizona law makes it a crime to knowingly apply lead-based paint to interior residential surfaces, toys, drinking containers, or cooking utensils. Because it is relatively inexpensive and still has a number of practical applications, however, lead remains in widespread use.
Even animals in the wile are at risk. The Arizona Game and Fish Department reports that lead poisoning, principally from lead in ammunition, is a major cause of death among Arizona’s California condor population.
As to humans, most individuals are aware of the dangers of lead exposure in the home or the environment, particularly among young children whose brains and nervous systems are still developing. Virtually all adults have some detectable amount of lead in their blood, but excessive levels can still do damage long after the nervous system has matured.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, many adult workers are also at risk of exposure to dangerous levels on the job. Naturally, occupations directly related to the mining or refining of lead ore are at highest risk, but others include:
- Artists, especially when using paints manufactured overseas
- Automobile mechanics
- Lead-acid battery plant workers
- Road and bridge maintenance workers exposed to old paint
- Gunsmiths, reloaders and gun range workers exposed to lead bullets
- Electrical and plastic product workers
- Employees of metal recyclers
- Shipyard employees
- Breathing in lead vapors or lead-contaminated dust is the most common means of ingestion.
Symptoms of Excessive Lead Exposure
In adults, ingestion of excessive amounts of lead may lead to:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Abdominal pain
- Severe constipation
- Painful joints or muscles
- Cognitive problems or memory loss
- Numbness or tingling in the fingers, arms or legs
- Recurring headaches
- Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders
- Miscarriages and premature births
If diagnosed in time, lead exposure can be treated, but, even in adults, prolonged exposure can lead to permanent impairment. Problems can include nervous system damage, depression, vision loss and impaired concentration. In these cases, the damage may result in long-term or even permanent disability.
Although workers compensation is often associated with accidental injuries, occupational illnesses are also covered. If you believe you have been made ill by exposure to lead in your workplace, don’t wait – you must take certain steps promptly to have a valid claim. Call us today – one of our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys will be pleased to discuss your case with you.