Construction sites can expose construction workers to toxic levels of lead. Painters, demolition workers, plumbers, and welders are at high risk of exposure, but even employees in other industries, such as heating/air conditioning, electrical, carpentry, and home improvement, may be more exposed to lead than they realize. From abrasives to paint, mortar to rivets, lead exposure in the trades is a frequent occurrence, and without the proper protection, lead poisoning causes workers to suffer serious injuries or death. It's important to be tested for exposure and be aware of the most common symptoms to keep you and your family safe.
Signs You Have Been Exposed to Lead and the Illnesses It Can Cause
A construction worker can absorb lead by inhaling it from dust, fumes, or mist, or ingesting it if it's on his hands while eating and drinking. Lead then gets into the bloodstream and is stored in a person’s organs and tissues, causing irreversible damage.
You should be concerned if you have any of the following lead results after a blood test:
- 5 mcg/dL. This shows you have been exposed to lead.
- 25 mcg/dL. Your level is high enough that you need more workplace protection from environments with the probability of lead.
- 40 mcg/dL. Your employer must offer you a medical exam if your level is this high.
- 50 mcg/dL. Your employer must remove you from work where you are exposed to lead.
Keep in mind that all employers should offer regular blood testing to spot lead exposure before it becomes a problem.
Many people do not feel ill when exposed to toxic levels of lead, so it's more difficult to associate certain conditions with lead poisoning. Symptoms to watch for include:
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle or joint pain
- Loss of sex drive
- Increased fatigue
- Increased irritability
- Memory loss
- Low sperm count
- Miscarriage or premature birth
- High blood pressure
Even low levels of lead exposure can cause damage to the person’s body over time. Some of the consequences of long-term exposure include:
- High blood pressure
- Nerve disorders
- Brain damage
- Kidney damage
- Reproductive system damage
Watch for These Symptoms of Lead Exposure in Your Children
Construction workers can bring lead home on their bodies and clothes. This puts their children at risk of lead exposure, which can cause irreversible brain damage as well as the same illnesses adults develop. Symptoms construction workers need to watch for in their children include:
- Developmental delays
- Learning difficulties
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbances
- Abdominal pains
- Hearing loss
Before going home, make sure to change out of work clothes before getting in your vehicle, and wash other family members' laundry separately from work attire.
Are you a construction worker who developed symptoms of lead exposure on your job? Fill out our online form to schedule a free appointment with our legal team to learn about your legal options.