Lead has many different uses. It is used in the production of batteries, ammunition, metal products (solder and pipes), and devices to shield X-rays. Lead compounds are used as a pigment in paints, dyes, and ceramic glazes and in caulk. Overall, the amount of lead used has been reduced in recent years to minimize lead’s harmful effect on people and animals. Even the use of lead in bullets and shot as well as in fishing sinkers is being reduced because of its harm to the environment.
Workers can be exposed to lead through inhalation of fumes and dusts, as well as through ingestion as a result of lead-contaminated hands, food, drinks, cosmetics, tobacco products, and clothing. Furthermore, workers can take lead home on their clothes, skin, hair, tools, and in their vehicles, potentially exposing their families to harmful health effects.
Symptoms of lead poisoning include weakness, excessive tiredness, irritability, constipation, anorexia, abdominal discomfort (colic), fine tremors, and wrist drop. Additionally, damage to the kidneys and the nervous system, anemia, high blood pressure, impotence, infertility, and reduced sex drive can also occur with overexposure to lead. Lead poisoning, neurological effects, and diminished mental function have occurred in the children of workers engaged in the occupations mentioned above.
Workers and Parents:
What Workers Need to Know about Occupational Lead Exposure [pdf 392k]
The Occupational Health Surveillance Unit maintains a registry of adults with lead poisoning. This tracking system is called ABLES. ABLES stands for Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) currently funds 37 states including New Jersey to conduct the ABLES Program.
NJ ABLES collects and analyzes occupational information on adults with lead in blood and/or urine to identify occupations and industries most in need for intervention. NIOSH combines information from the 37 states to help measure trends in adult blood lead levels in these states. NJ ABLES also conducts other projects to help understand and prevent lead poisoning in New Jersey workers.
Lead Training and Certification
In order to perform lead-based paint work in New Jersey, individuals must be permitted by the NJDOH and be employed by a licensed lead abatement contractor. For more information regarding permitting requirements, please click here.