Lead exposure in construction

January 1, 2012

Lead is commonly used at many construction sites, particularly in demolition, salvage, removal, encapsulating, renovation and cleanup. The hazardous substance can pose a risk to workers if they are not properly protected. Exposure can take place in a number of ways – workers can inhale lead fumes or dust, or even ingest lead through contaminated hands. The hazard can follow the worker home by collecting on skin, clothes, hair, tools and vehicles.

Although the severity of adverse health effects of lead exposure varies depending on exposure levels and length, people suffering from asthma or other respiratory illnesses may be at increased risk.

To avoid exposure, OSHA suggests:

  • Use proper personal protective equipment, such as gloves and approved respirators.
  • Wash hands and face after work and before eating.
  • Never enter eating areas wearing PPE.
  • Clothes and shoes worn during lead exposure should not be taken home from work.
  • Launder clothing daily using proper cleaning methods.
  • Be alert to symptoms of lead exposure, such as severe abdominal pain, headache and loss of motor coordination.
  • When working outdoors, stand upwind of any plume.
  • Use local exhaust ventilation for enclosed work areas.
  • Whenever possible, use lead-free materials and chemicals.
  • Use dust-collecting equipment and wet methods to decrease dust.