Lead industry demonstrates continuous improvements in reducing employee blood lead levels
Lead exposure to workers in the European and North American lead industry is well managed and reductions continue to be recorded, according to newly released data.
Delegates to an international Lead Occupational Exposure Workshop, in Prague, (June19) organised by the International Lead Association (ILA) heard how data collected recently by the Lead REACH Consortium showed that blood levels in the majority of European workers were below those set to support the EU REACH Regulation at 40µg/dl (1) and well below the current EU Binding Limit Value of 70µg/dl. A similar picture is also evident in North American lead workers.
Aggie Kotze, ILA-Europe’s REACH Manager, told the workshop: “The blood lead dataset we have collected is robust and representative of all EU sectors manufacturing or using lead and lead compounds. It demonstrates that if companies adopt risk management measures specified in REACH Chemical Safety Reports, workplace exposures will be under that generally accepted to result in occupational health issues.”
Data was collected from primary and secondary lead producers, as well as users of lead in the manufacture of batteries, lead sheet, lead oxides and stabiliser compounds.
The workshop provided a platform for companies involved in the mining, manufacture and use of lead to exchange information on the latest developments in global regulations, science and industry initiatives to manage worker exposure to lead.
In his presentation Michel Baumgartner, of EUROBAT, announced that its membership which represents the major European battery manufacturers, along with US battery manufacturers represented by Battery Council International (BCI) had now set a voluntary target to reduce blood lead levels for all employees below 30µg/dl blood by the end of 2016 . This demonstrates that this sector recognises the benefits in continuous improvement by establishing targets below the limits set by current European Union and U.S. legislation.
“This is evidence to regulators that industry can be a credible partner and deliver results on its own,” said Mr Baumgartner.
The workshop was the first organised by ILA and was supported by the Association of Battery Recyclers, BCI and EUROBAT. The international audience also heard speakers from companies such as East Penn Manufacturing, Exide Technologies, Johnson Controls and RSR Corporation give examples of how developments in health and safety practices, and widespread adoption of initiatives such as behavioural based safety programmes, had led to significant reductions in employee blood lead levels.
Examples of successful company safety schemes that were presented included rigorous personal hygiene practices, an emphasis on hydration at work, personal counselling for employees with elevated blood lead levels and incentives for employees to maintain low lead in blood levels.
Improvements to plant design and engineering controls were also illustrated including the effectiveness of supplied air islands to reduce dust and the increased use of automation.
ILA Managing Director, Dr Andy Bush, said: “This workshop has shown that there is a genuine global commitment across the lead industry to adopt safety practices that deliver continued reductions in blood lead levels in its workers.
“Delegates can take away from the workshop plenty of practical information and the ILA will be working in partnership with other lead industry associations to ensure continuous improvement remains high on the industry’s agenda.”
(1) The 90th percentile of exposure data is below the DNEL of 40 µg/dL (microgrammes per decilitre) for male employees. DNEL means the derived no-effect level – the level of exposure to a substance above which humans should not be exposed.
Notes to editors
About the ILA
The International Lead Association is a membership body that supports companies involved in the mining, smelting, refining and recycling of lead. The ILA represents the producers of about 3 million tonnes of lead and almost two thirds of lead production in the western world.
With offices in the UK and USA the ILA provides a range of technical, scientific and communications support and is focused on all aspects of the industry’s safe production, use and recycling of lead and helps funds bodies such as the International Lead Management Center and International Lead Zinc Research Organization.
The Lead REACH Consortium is a stand-alone project of ILA-Europe and its activities are funded by 100 member companies.
ILA also supports the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium, which manages the research, development and promotion of lead-based batteries for markets such as hybrid electric vehicles, start-stop automotive systems and grid-scale energy storage applications. Visit www.ila-lead.org