What is Lead?

Environmental Safety Consultants (ESC) has been in the lead field for twenty years which is nothing compared to the 8,000 plus years of lead use by mankind.  So what is lead?  It is a natural element mined from the earth and is malleable, blue, and a heavy metal.  Malleable means that it is pliable or able to be hammered or pressed permanently out of shape without breaking or cracking.  Any fisherman who has pressed small lead weights on a fishing line, knows how easy the weights are to open and close on the line.  Lead was historically discovered as a byproduct when silver was being smelted.

Lead has been mined, smelted, and used to make products for thousands of years.  Some of the first products were artifacts and money.  The reported oldest artifact discovered was an Egyptian statue which was made 8,000 to 9,000 years ago.  It was also used to make rods and money used in the Middle East.  The Roman Empire used lead for its aqueducts and pipes which distributed potable water to the citizens.  Other uses have been in solder used on potable water pipes, X-ray shields in walls and aprons, collectible figurines, printing presses, shotgun pellets, glazing on pottery, and on an on.

what is leadThe use of lead greatly increased over time, especially after the industrial age began in the 1800’s.  It was a versatile element with unique physical and chemical properties.  Its uses appeared endless.  It is soft and easily worked.  It was rolled into sheets and pipes and was combined with other metals.  It was used in the construction industry for roofing, paints, flashing, electrical conduit, and pipes conveying drinking water and sewer.  And do not forget it was used in gasoline supposedly for anti-knock in automotive engines, although with its introduction, cars no longer lasted a lifetime!  From all of these uses, tons of lead were released to the environment.  Fortunately, it was banned from gasoline in the 1970’s, which eliminated a big portion of the environmental load.

Along with the many uses of lead, production greatly increased over time.  As this occurred, certain exposures were found to affect human health.  This occurred both in workers producing the lead and related products and in consumers who were using or were around lead products.  As this became known, agencies began addressing the hazards.  That included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).  But that is a subject of another blog.  Stay tuned!

So there is an overview of lead.  If you need any more information, Environmental Safety Consultants (www.escflorida.com) can assist.  We have the credentials and experience to answer your questions and steer you in the right direction.  We are a Florida-licensed Engineering business and are licensed by the U.S. EPA in Lead Based Paint Inspections and Risk Assessments.  ESC also has a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, Board for EHS Credentialing, www.EHSCredentialing.org formerly American Board of Industrial Hygiene, www.abih.org) which is critical for lead work.

We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (escinc@verizon.net).  Contact us today!


The Importance of Industrial Hygiene Testing

hygiene testingIndustrial hygiene testing is a hot topic as of late. You would have to be an ostrich with your head in the sand if you haven’t heard about silica on the job lately. Why all the hype? Well, there has been a lot of concern and posturing over the last few years. OSHA finally drew the line in the sand (no pun intended!) and lowered the 8 hour time weighted average (TWA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) to 50 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3). Employers had a lead time of a year or two to get into compliance, but many are in the throws of determining if they have a problem and, if so, of resolving it. The new limit applies to manufacturers, construction, maritime, and general industry employers. More information is available on OSHA’s FAQ Sheet.

So, just what is silica and why the big concern? Crystalline silica is a naturally occurring mineral of which the most common form is quartz. Other forms are critobalite and tridymite. It is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals. Workers are exposed to crystalline silica when they grind, cut, drill, buff, or otherwise disturb the material that contains the silica. It may become airborne and they can breathe it in. From there, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, or lung cancer can occur, 10 to 30 years later, and these are chronic effects. There are also health effects which can occur within a few weeks. These acute effects may include fever and sharp chest pain along with breathing difficulty. More information is available from the American Lung Association.

The first step is to find out if your workers have an exposure problem. Industrial hygiene testing, specifically air testing will have to be done for the different tasks or operations. The firm doing the testing should have a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, American Board of Industrial Hygiene). That way the testing will be done properly and will be court defensible. Environmental Safety Consultants fits that bill and has been doing a lot of silica testing over the years, and especially over the last two years. Once the testing is done, you will know if you have a problem and, if so, can determine how to fix the problem.

While you are at it, you should consider other exposures which may affect the health of your workers. These exposures are also industrial hygiene issues. They include noise, chemicals, fumes, heat, radiation, and other particulates. These can result from painting, plating, welding, soldering, abrasive blasting, cutting, grinding, buffing, and other industrial and construction operations. While it may seem overwhelming, ESC can help you work through it. Remember that your workers are your biggest asset and it will pay you back in more ways than one!

Environmental Safety Consultants is licensed, accredited, and certified to provide industrial hygiene testing with a staff that has over 100 years of combined experience! Give us a call at (941) 795-2399 or (727) 538-4154 or send us a quick message for a speedy response on any industrial hygiene questions you might have today.

How Often Should Industrial Hygiene Testing Be Done?

There is no OSHA regulation stating how often general industrial hygiene testing should be done.  However, it should be done every one to two years, depending on what chemicals or particulates are being generated.  Most of the larger manufacturers follow this schedule so recent data are always available.  Many clients of Environmental Safety Consultants have different areas tested each year, so that all areas are tested at least every two years.  If manufacturing methods change, then the testing must be done at that time.  Those method changes include the chemicals, stock materials, or procedures.  Regulations can change, as well, lowering the permissible limits, which may warrant retesting if the most recent results were below the old limit but above the new one.  Of course, noise is usually tested in the plant annually and the audiometric testing for the workers must be done annually.