Why lead is dangerous for construction worker

Protecting Construction Workers from Lead Exposure During Demolition - NEBS

Up till 1978, the vast majority of household paints contained one of the most toxic elements – lead. Only by the end of the 80s, scientists have proven its harmful influence on human health, and as a result, the manufacture of all lead-based paints was totally banned. 

According to the research of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead paint can be found in nearly 86 percent of the houses that were built before the federal regulations prohibited this toxic product. As a result, the inhabitants of those properties are under the threat of:

  • Kidney damage, 
  • Brain and nervous system damage,
  • Behavioral issues like hyperactivity,
  • Headaches,
  • Memory, concentration and hearing problems,
  • Fertility problems in adults,
  • Increased blood pressure,
  • Anemia.

When the paint is in good condition, it does not bring any harm to the human body. The problem arises once the paint starts worsening and falling off. In that case, lead can enter the body by ingestion, for example, if parts of the paint get into the food or drinks or if you do not wash your hands after touching the paint.

However, the highest percentage of lead enters the body by inhalation, especially during construction works. The builders might inhale the airborne lead particles that can be found in fumes, dust, and mists deeply into the lungs. The larger particles can be trapped in the upper respiratory tract, cleared from the lungs, and then swallowed. Therefore it is completely understandable that the owners of the houses built in the 20th century choose to test their property for the content of lead. 

Many construction companies offer such a service, and this is why it is absolutely a must for every construction worker to complete EPA courses before starting working with lead-based paints. During the training, the individuals learn about how to handle the danger and avoid any accidents or side effects.

How to control risks when working with lead paint?

  • It is important to identify the tasks that require work with lead in the first place. By doing this, it will be easier to determine which parts will require being extra careful.
  • After defining the tasks with the increased risks, list the methods to limit the amount and prevent the spread of dust or fumes that are created while working with lead-based paints. 
  • Make sure the construction workers have completed the relevant training and have enough knowledge of how the tasks should be handled.
  • Always provide and wear protective clothing, safety goggles, and respiratory protective equipment when being at the site of increased risk.
  • Thoroughly wash hands and forearms with soap before eating, drinking, taking medication, smoking, using the cellphone, etc.
  • Avoid touching your face when in contaminated areas.