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Occupational Health Branch

Occupational Health Watch: January 2017

California workers still exposed to lead at harmful levels

1_painter%20suited%20w%20HEPA%20toA new report from the Occupational Health Branch presents data on adults with elevated blood lead levels (BLLs)—now defined by health agencies as 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter (µg/dL) and higher. Between 2012 and 2014:

  • More than 6,000 workers were identified with an elevated blood lead level.
  • The majority were male, aged 20–59, and had a Hispanic surname.
  • 60% of workers with BLLs ≥10 µg/dL worked in the manufacturing sector, followed by 14% in construction.

Long-term lead exposure at levels above 5–10 µg/dL increases the risk for health effects such as hypertension, kidney disease, cognitive dysfunction, and adverse reproductive outcomes.

Even higher blood lead levels continue to be a problem among California workers. Blood lead levels of 40 µg/dL and above were reported among workers in industries that handle lead-containing bullets and firearms, and metal-related and construction industries.

For more information, see the full report: Blood Lead Levels in California Workers, 2012–2014.

Photo: A worker wearing protective gear prepares a surface for painting.


BLL data report

Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

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