OSHA may toughen its workplace exposure to lead standard for the first time since 1978.
The safety agency proposes to lower the blood lead levels (BLLs) for medical removal and for returning to lead-exposed work for both general industry and construction.
Recent medical studies show adverse health effects can occur at levels lower than OSHA’s current BLLs. Lead exposure can damage the reproductive, cardiovascular, neurological, respiratory and immune systems.
How much higher could the bar be set?
Currently employers covered by the lead standard must implement engineering controls, work practices and respiratory protection (if needed) to reduce employees’ lead exposure below 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (μg/m3).
For general industry, employers must take these actions if lead exceeds the action level of 30 μg/m3 averaged over eight hours.
Medical surveillance for lead and zinc is required if employees’ exposure level exceeds 30 μg/m3.