Workplace injuries: Elevated lead levels in workers’ bloodstreams


The California Department of Health’s Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention Program recently reported the results of 38,440 blood tests that were conducted on workers between 2012 and 2014. Over 6,000 of those showed excessive levels of lead, which can result in serious workplace injuries and illnesses. Reportedly, the elevated lead levels were found among workers in the manufacturing and construction industries.

Increased lead levels can cause medical problems like hypertension and kidney disease. Many workers with elevated lead levels in their blood were tested more than once, with each test showing higher lead content. This amounts to chronic exposure, which risks additional health problems, such as reproductive problems and cognitive dysfunction.

Excessive lead levels are defined as five or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood — about 3.3 ounces. The occupations of workers with 10 or more micrograms included, among others, those in the manufacturing of aircraft and aircraft parts, metal valves, batteries and plumbing fixtures. Workers with more than 40 micrograms included employees of shooting ranges who handle firearms and lead bullets, gun repair and manufacturing, firearm instructors and construction workers. Safety authorities have been asked to review the permissible lead content levels.

California workers who are suffering the health consequences of workplace injuries such as lead poisoning will likely have to deal with mounting medical bills, lost wages and long-term health problems. Fortunately, the California workers’ compensation insurance program covers those costs. However, proving these problems are work-related could be challenging without the support and guidance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can assist with the navigation of the benefits claims process.

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