Health effects from exposure to lead
The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (CLAW) place a duty on employers to prevent, or where this is not reasonably practicable, to control employee exposure to lead.
The occupational exposure limit for lead in air set out in the Regulations is 0.15 mg/m3, and blood lead suspension levels for males and females are 60 and 30ug/dl, respectively. For young workers (under 18) the blood lead suspension limit is 50 μg/dl. However there is growing scientific evidence that employees' health is at risk, even where exposure to lead is below the levels in CLAW, for example, above levels of 40ug/dl, the following health effects have been observed:
- changes in the blood which might lead to anaemia
- effects on the nervous system
- effects on the kidney
- altered functioning of the testicles which could lead to infertility
At exposures around 30ug/dl, elevated blood pressure in middle-aged males has been reported.
HSE is therefore reminding employers of good practice for controlling workers' exposures to lead.