Numerous workers in New Jersey are exposed to inorganic lead on a daily basis. As a pure metal, an alloy or a chemical compound, lead can be used in everything from pipes and building materials to ammunition and the lead-acid batteries in automobiles. It was once found in paint as a corrosion inhibitor and pigment but fell under a ban back in 1977.
Inhaling and ingesting lead, especially through lead-containing dust and fumes, can lead to health problems. The lead will pass through the lungs and into the blood, affecting organs like the kidneys and giving rise to anemia, neurological conditions and gastrointestinal effects like nausea and continual abdominal pain. Workers may accidentally ingest the metal by eating, drinking or smoking with contaminated hands or clothing.
OSHA, in its lead standard for general industries, shipyards and construction sites, has laid down a permissible exposure limit for lead as well as an action level. Once lead is at the action level, employers must follow OSHA's lead standard and minimize workers' exposure to the metal.
Employers who want to know what the average lead exposure levels are in their industry could consult OSHA's Chemical Exposure Health Database. This gives industrial hygiene sample results from the site visits that OSHA inspectors make.
If employers do not comply with OSHA standards, they will only continue to put their workers at risk for lead exposure. People who become ill through such exposure may be able to file for workers' compensation benefits. They might want to have the assistance of an attorney in order to ensure that the claim contains all required information and that it is filed on a timely basis.