Since the early 1970's the Federal government has taken several steps to reduce worker and building occupant health risks due to exposure to LBP. Workers encounter lead and lead-based paint (LBP) in a variety of occupational situations which require compliance with USEPA, OSHA regulations and possibly HUD guidelines. LBP can be found in pre-1978 residential structures, on structural steel such as bridges and water towers regardless of vintage, and other industrial surfaces primarily used for its durability or as a protective coating. While this paper focuses primarily on exposure to LBP, the work practices apply generally to other lead exposures as well.

Workers involved with the disturbance of LBP coatings risk exposure to lead fumes, dust, or paint chips. Inhalation or ingestion of lead can cause serious bodily harm and even death. Failure to utilize safe work practices during the disturbance of LBP coatings can have consequences resulting in lead exposures to other workers, non-workers and building occupants. Children (6 years of age and under) are especially susceptible to the toxic effects of lead and are protected from such exposures by USEPA and public health regulations. Improper disturbance can also create environmental contamination and generate regulated hazardous wastes. This presentation will cover best practices utilizing the lead paint regulation and guidance issued by OSHA, USEPA, and HUD when LBP is disturbed during demolition and renovation activities.

History and response to health effects

Archaeologists have found lead pigment on buildings built around 3000 B.C. (Anderson 4). Even after 5000 years, the color on these structures is still visible. (Mueller 33) It is the durability of LBP to weathering and moisture that made it a common additive in paints for centuries. The health effects of lead exposure have also been known for centuries. As early as the 4th century B.C., Hippocrates observed leads adverse health effects on miners and metallurgists (ATSDR B-1). Although the hazards have been recognized since ancient times, lead poisoning is still common in the United States.

When lead enters the human body, it is sequentially deposited into the blood, soft tissue and bones. Lead can remain in the blood for a period of one week, in soft tissue (muscles and organs) for a month and in the skeleton for over 30 years. The body will naturally eliminate lead over time. Lead serves no metabolic purpose in the body, and its presence can affect any and all of the body's functions, including the central nervous system, reproductive system, skeleton and renal and hepatic function.

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