Safety Tips Workplace exposure Safety

Lead: Don’t take it home


Are you exposed to lead at work? You may be if you make or fix batteries or radiators; make or paint ceramics; melt, cast or grind lead, brass or bronze; tear down or remodel houses, buildings or bridges; or work with scrap metal, the California Department of Public Health says.

Short-term lead exposure can cause headaches, irritability, memory loss, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. Prolonged exposure can cause depression, nausea, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and reduced fertility.

On top of all that, you can inadvertently bring lead home. Certain types of work create lead dust or fumes. Because you can’t see lead dust, it can get on your hands, face and clothes without you being aware of it. “You take lead dust from your job to your family when you wear your work clothes and shoes home,” CDPH warns, adding that lead dust can get in your car and on your furniture, floors and carpets. “Your child can swallow this lead dust and be poisoned.”

This is especially dangerous for children younger than 6. Children who swallow lead dust may develop problems learning and paying attention. The only way to know for sure if your child has lead poisoning is to have your doctor test your child’s blood.

Take steps to protect your family from lead poisoning. First, if you’re unsure if you’re exposed to lead, ask your employer, who is required by law to tell you. If you are, at the end of the workday, change into clean clothes and shoes before leaving. Place your soiled work clothes in a plastic bag. Thoroughly wash your face and hands before leaving work. Next, take a shower (at work, if possible) and wash your hair.

CDPH also recommends washing work clothes separately from your other clothes. “Empty your work clothes from the plastic bag directly into the washing machine and wash them,” the department states. “Run the empty washing machine again to rinse out the lead.”

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