Blood Lead Levels in Construction Workers Performing Lead Abatement

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MORAN, PATRICK. Blood Lead Levels in Construction Workers Performing Lead Abatement. (Under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Richmond-Bryant). Lead abatement is a common practice in the construction industry. However, the job task generates airborne particulate lead, creating a potential workplace hazard exposure for workers if not managed properly. This exposure can cause severe acute and chronic illnesses. Entry and exit blood lead levels (BLLs) are required for all abatement workers under medical surveillance in OSHA § 1910.1025 Appendix C. BLLs can be used as a measurement of a worker’s exposure. The change from entry to exit BLLs can be analyzed in different project settings, abatement methods, engineering controls, and job trades to help determine best practices in mitigating a worker’s exposure. The Sen et al. (2002), Sokas et al. (1997), Levin et al. (1998), and Reynolds et al. (1999) studies all used different abatement methods for different abatement projects. Sen et al. (2002) analyzed scaffolders who performed mobilization/ demobilization erecting scaffolds in and around the containment while abrasive blasting was being performed. Sokas et al. (1997) studied crews who performed demolition and burning lead abatement versus workers who never performed demolition and burning lead abatement. Levin et al. (1998) compared BLL for iron workers on a bridge rehabilitation project in New York between the years 1993 and 1994 performing needle gunning and pneumatic chipping. Reynolds et al. (1999) compared the changes of BLL in construction workers in Iowa and Illinois across several different job occupations of laborers, painters, welders, and ironworkers. The findings of all four articles discovered that scaffold workers who were not performing active abatement tasks, such as mobilization and demobilization, could still have elevated BLL when working with containments or working in close proximity without necessary PPE. These four studies have unique abatement tasks and different engineering controls, despite there being increased BLL across tasks. Additionally, three abatement projects in 2018-2020 in New York (Manhattan Subway Project, Yonkers Pump Station Wastewater Treatment Project, and Hastings-On-Hudson Bridge Project) also used different abatement methods for different projects. All three projects also exhibited workers having varied increased BLLs. Abrasive blasting, needle gunning, plasma cutting, lead tape removal, mobilization/demobilization, and vacuuming were the tasks performed at the projects. The needle gunning, plasma cutting, lead tape removal, and mobilization/demobilization had the lowest BLL while abrasive blasting and vacuuming had the highest BLL. A literature review of the four articles was performed and each article had unique conditions and different abatement methods, similar to the three projects having different conditions and abatement methods. The data from the articles were compared to the data in the three projects. Based on findings presented in Sen et al. (2002), Sokas et al. (1997), Levin et al. (1998), and Reynolds et al. (1999) and the results from three abatement projects, workers’ risk of exposure exists regardless of abatement method but can be better managed by understanding which abatement methods and engineering controls should be used as best practice.