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Lead Exposure - Adults

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Department of Health and Human Services

Lead Exposure - Adults

Lead is a highly toxic metal. Adults can be exposed to lead if they work in certain industries where lead is used. Lead is used to make products like batteries and ammunition. Construction workers can come in contact with lead during renovation and removal of old lead-based paint. Non-work lead exposures in adults include home remodeling and hobbies like casting lead bullets.1

Adult lead exposure data are available on the MiTracking data portal.

  • A blood lead level (BLL) of 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or higher is considered elevated.2

    For more information, visit NIOSH- Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES).

  • People can breathe or swallow (eat or drink) lead particles or lead-contaminated dust, soil, and drinking water. Lead can accumulate in the body. Lead exposure can harm adults' health.1

    For more information, visit MDHHS-Learn About Lead and MDHHS-Lead and Your Health.

  • Adults are most commonly exposed to lead at work. They may also be exposed through use of firearms, from gunshot wounds, while remodeling, through food, pottery, or ceramics, or by working with stained glass.3 Descriptions and examples are listed below:

    Work-Related

    Lead exposure happens most often in manufacturing and construction.4

    • Manufacturing examples:
      • Fabricating metal products covered with lead paint
      • Making, cleaning, or refurbishing batteries
      • Cutting/torching or recycling scrap metal
      • Making brass and/or bronze fixtures
      • Repairing radiators with lead solder
    • Construction examples4:
      • Abrasive blasting to remove lead paint from outdoor metal structures such as bridges, overpasses, or water towers
      • Renovating, remodeling, or removing lead paint in homes
      • Demolishing old metal structures

    For more information, visit NIOSH - Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance.

     

    Firearms

    • Indoor firing range examples5:
      • Exposure to lead from fumes in the "gun smoke" made from ammunition with lead primers or lead bullets
      • Exposure to lead dust that has settled on surfaces in a firing range
      • Retrieving used bullets at firing ranges
    • Casting or reloading bullets at home6: 

    For more information, visit Lead Hazards at Indoor Fire Ranges and Lead Hazards from Casting and Reloading.

     

    Gunshot Wound

    • Lodged bullet fragment

     

    Remodeling

    Homes built before 1978 may have lead-based paint. In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of indoor and outdoor lead-based paint. Lead exposure from paint and lead-contaminated dust occurs during home remodeling.7

    For more information, visit Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program: Do-It-Yourselfers.

     

    Food, Pottery, Ceramics8

    • Imported spices
    • Cosmetic powders and folk remedies
    • Eating or drinking from ceramic-glazed pottery, where the glazes or decorations contain lead

    For more information, visit CDC - Lead in Foods, Cosmetics, and Medicines.

     

    Hobby: Stained Glass

    Using lead-containing solder while working with stained glass can be a source of lead exposure.9

    For more information, visit Lead in Stained Glass.

  • Health problems that lead exposure can cause include10:

    Lower levels of lead in adults can result in:

    • Increased blood pressure.
    • Decreased kidney function.
    • Decreased cognitive function.
    • Slower reaction times.
    • Altered mood and behavior.

    Along with the health effects listed above, higher levels of lead in adults can also result in:

    • Anemia.
    • Muscle weakness or soreness.
    • Severe stomachache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or constipation.
    • Poor sperm and semen quality.
    • Delayed conception.
    • Increased risk of heart disease.

    For more information, visit NTP- Health Effects of Low-Lead Level.

  • Adult lead exposure can be prevented by eliminating or reducing contact with lead.

    Some ways to prevent lead exposure are:

    Work-Related

    The following are ways to prevent lead exposure at work11:

    • Avoid breathing in lead dust or fumes
    • Do not eat or drink in lead use areas
    • Shower and do not wear your work clothes/shoes home so your family does not come in contact with lead.
    • Proper engineering and ventilation
    • Training on the correct handling of lead products
    • Learn how lead can affect health
    • Learn ways to protect yourself from lead
    • Learn about the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) Lead Standards including requirements for education, showers, separate lunchroom and lockers, engineering controls, medical testing including measuring your blood lead level, and medical removal if your blood lead is = 30 µg/dL.12

    For more information, visit NIOSH - Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance.

     

    Firearms5:

    • Use lead-free ammunition
    • Minimize airborne lead dust while cleaning the bullet traps
    • Wear protective clothing and respirators
    • Use High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) equipped vacuum and never use a broom for cleaning
    • Control exposure through proper ventilation
    • Prohibit eating, drinking, and smoking at the range

    For more information, visit Lead Hazards at Indoor Firing Ranges.

     

    Drinking Water

    • Have your water tested for lead if your home has lead pipes or brass fixtures13

    For more information, visit MDHHS - Mi Lead Safe - Drinking Water.

     

  • A blood test is the best way to determine if you have a recent or on-going exposure to lead and if it is at a level that may be harmful to your health. The most reliable test is done by drawing blood from a vein, which is called a venous test. Some health providers and clinics do a test with blood drawn from your finger (capillary test), but if your blood lead is elevated on a capillary test it needs to be confirmed with a venous test. Talk to your doctor if you are at risk or have concerns.

  • The main treatment for an elevated blood lead level is to remove the person from lead exposure. This allows the body to clear the lead. It is unusual for an adult to require chelation treatment with medication for an elevated blood lead level.14

    For more information, visit Medical Management of Lead-Exposed Adults .

  • MiTracking Adult Lead Exposure Indicators

    • Number of adults (age 16 and older) with a blood lead test result of =5 µg/dL and =25 µg/dL (all years combined)
    • Number of adults (age 16 and older) with a blood lead test result of =5 µg/dL and =25 µg/dL (5-year aggregates)

    MiTracking Adult Lead Exposure Data Can Tell Us

    • On a statewide basis, the number of adults with blood lead levels =5 µg/dL and =25 µg/dL), by 5-year groups and all years combined, age group, gender, and type of exposure.
    • On a county basis, the number of elevated blood lead levels (=5 µg/dL, and =25 µg/dL) by type of exposure. 

    MiTracking Adult Lead Exposure Data Cannot Tell Us

    • The total number of adults with elevated blood lead levels since not all people with lead exposure are tested.
    • The cost, effect, result, or consequence of lead exposure.
    • The place of lead exposure. 

    Find Out More

    Data from the Michigan Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES) program were used to create this dataset. ABLES is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). ABLES is a joint project of Michigan State University (MSU) College of Human Medicine's Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM) Division and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

    For more data information, visit:

  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

    Lead | Toxic Substances | Toxic Substance Portal | ATSDR (cdc.gov)

     

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

    Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES)

     

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

    Lead

     

    Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)

    Mi Lead Safe

     

    Michigan State University Occupational and Environmental Medicine (MSU OEM)

    Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses: Lead Poisoning

     

    Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

    Factsheet: Protecting Workers from Lead Hazards at Indoor Firing Ranges

    1. Learn about lead. MDHHS. https://www.michigan.gov/lead/0,5417,7-310-84213---,00.html. Accessed April 17, 2020.
    2. Centers for Disease and Prevention. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES) https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/ables/description.html. Accessed September 11, 2020.
    3. Michigan State University. 2015-2016 Report: Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES) program. http://www.oem.msu.edu/images/annual_reports/2015-2016%20Lead%20Report.pdf. Accessed April 17, 2020.
    4. Centers for Disease and Prevention. Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance-United States, 2003-2004. MMWR. 2006: 55(32),876-879. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5532a2. Accessed September 29, 2020.
    5. Lead safety with firearms: lead hazards at indoor firing ranges Michigan State University. https://oem.msu.edu/images/annual_reports/MSU-LEAD%20HAZARDS%20INDOOR%20FIRING%20RANGE2012.pdf. Accessed April 17, 2020.
    6. Lead hazards from casting and reloading. Michigan State University. https://oem.msu.edu/images/resources/lead%20hazards%20casting%20and%20reloading-sept.pdf. Accessed September 11, 2020.
    7. Protect your family from exposure to lead. Sources of lead at home. Older homes and buildings. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family-exposures-lead#older. Accessed September 11, 2020.
    8. Lead in foods, cosmetics, and medicines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/prevention/sources/foods-cosmetics-medicines.htm. Accessed April 17, 2020.
    9. Lead in stained glass. Australian Government: Department of the Environment and Energy website. http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/chemicals-management/lead/lead-in-stained-glass. Accessed April 17, 2020.
    10. National Toxicology Program. NTP monograph: Health effects of low-level lead. https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/ohat/lead/final/monographhealtheffectslowlevellead_newissn_508.pdf. Accessed October 6, 2020.
    11. U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Lead: Evaluating Exposure and Controls. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/lead/exposurecontrols.html. Accessed September 16, 2020.
    12. Michigan becomes first state to lower acceptable blood lead levels for workers. Michigan.gov. The Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.  https://www.michigan.gov/leo/0,5863,7-336-94422_11407_30453_30456-485429--,00.html. Accessed September 2, 2020.
    13. Lead in Drinking Water. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/prevention/sources/water.htm. Accessed September 11, 2020.
    14. California Department of Public Health. Health-Based Guidelines for Blood Lead Levels in Adults. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CCDPHP/DEODC/OHB/OLPPP/CDPH%20Document%20Library/AdultMgtGuide.pdf.. Accessed September 29, 2020.

Contact Information

MiTracking emailmdhhs-mitracking@michigan.gov

Aaron Ferguson, MPA
Climate and Tracking Unit Manager
517-284-4801
FergusonA1@michigan.gov

Jillian Maras, MPH
MiTracking Program Manager
MarasJ@michigan.gov