LEAD PAINT Information for Workers


Lead based paint and other lead elements in millions of British homes and public buildings has now been recognized as one of the most serious environmental health hazards facing children and adults today.

The latest scientific research in the last few years has shown that exposure to lead paint, even small amounts and levels once considered safe in the UK, can lead to adverse health affects and serious irreversible health problems later in life. Many British business and workers are not aware of this very serious health hazard. working with lead can put your health at risk, causing illness including headaches, stomach pains and anemia. Other serious symptoms can include kidney damage, nerve and brain damage and infertility. New American research has now linked exposure to lead as carsnagenic.


On this Page

  • Jobs that have lead exposure
  • How exposures can happen
  • Health problems caused by lead
  • How you can keep yourself and your family safe from lead exposure

Certain jobs may put you at risk of being exposed to lead. This page contains information about common jobs that may risk lead exposure, how exposures happens, health problems related to lead, and what you can do to lower your exposure on the job.

Jobs That May Involve Lead Exposure
These are just a few jobs that are known to use lead or are known to put workers at risk of being exposed to lead:

The highest risk is to the building trade who carry out work in pre 1970 buildings.

  • Painters & decorators, builders, plumbers, joiners, glazers, paint strippers,
    floor sanders, carpet fitters, to name but a few.
  • Artists (materials used may contain lead)
  • Auto repairers (car parts may contain lead)
  • Battery manufacturers (batteries contain lead)
  • Bridge reconstruction workers (old paint may contain lead)
  • Construction workers (materials used may include lead)
  • Firing range instructors and gunsmiths (ammunition contains lead)
  • Glass manufacturers (lead may be used in glass production)
  • Lead manufacturers
  • Lead miners
  • Lead refiners
  • Lead smelters
  • Manufacturers of bullets, ceramics, and electrical components (all contain lead)
  • Plastic manufacturers (materials made may contain lead)
  • Plumbers and pipe fitters (pipes may contain lead)
  • Police officers (ammunition contains lead)
  • Radiator repairers (radiators may contain lead)
  • Recyclers of metal, electronics, and batteries (may contain lead)
  • Rubber product manufacturers (process contains lead)
  • Shipbuilders (materials used may include lead)
  • Solid waste incinerator operators (waste may contain lead)


The problem
In many of the cases above, lead exposure is a fact of the service. However for the vast majority of these services little or NO information and awareness is available. This includes most of the building trade, an area that has the most hazardous potential of lead poisoning and MUST be addressed by UK authorities.

How Exposures Can Happen
Breathing in lead fumes or lead dust-Lead fumes are produced during metal processing, when metal is being heated or soldered. Lead dust is produced when metal is being cut or when lead paint is sanded or removed with a heat gun. Lead fumes and lead dust do not have an odor, so you may not know you are being exposed.

Ingesting lead dust
Lead dust can settle on food, water, clothes, and other objects. If you eat, drink, or smoke in areas where lead is being processed or stored, you could ingest lead dust. Not washing your hands before you eat or touch your mouth are also ways you could ingest lead. Though not always the case, ingested lead may leave a metallic taste in your mouth.

Coming in contact with lead dust
Some studies have found lead can be absorbed through skin. If you handle lead and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you could be exposed. Lead dust can also get on your clothes and your hair. If this happens, it's possible that you may track home some of the lead dust, which may also expose your family. This is known as Take Home Lead.

Health Problems Caused by Lead
It does not matter if a person breathes in, swallows, or absorbs lead particles, the health effects are the same; however, the body absorbs higher levels of lead when it is breathed in.

Within our bodies, lead is absorbed and stored in our bones, blood and tissues - it is stored there as a source of continual internal exposure. As we age, our bones undergo demineralization and the internal exposures may increase as a result of larger releases of lead from the bone tissue. There is concern among women that during menopause, lead may mobilize from the bone. Post-menopausal women have been found to have higher blood lead levels than pre-menopausal women.

Health effects from short-term overexposure to lead
Lead poisoning can happen if a person is exposed to very high levels of lead over a short period of time. When this happens, a person may feel:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipated
  • Excessively tired
  • Headache
  • Irritable
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet
  • Weak

Because these symptoms may occur slowly or may be caused by other things, lead poisoning can be easily overlooked as their cause. Being exposed to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage. Very high lead exposure can cause death.

Lead can cross the placental barrier, which means pregnant women who are exposed to lead also expose their unborn child. Lead can damage a developing baby's nervous system. Even low-level lead exposures in developing babies have been found to affect behavior and intelligence. Lead exposure can cause miscarriage, stillbirths, and infertility (in both men and women).

Generally, lead affects children more than it does adults. Children tend to show signs of severe lead toxicity at lower levels of lead than adults. Lead poisoning has occurred in children whose parent(s) accidentally brought home lead dust on their clothing. Neurological effects and mental retardation have also occurred in children whose parent(s) may have job-related lead exposure.

Health effects from prolonged exposure to lead
A person who is exposed to lead over time may feel:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipated
  • Depressed
  • Distracted
  • Forgetful
  • Irritable
  • Nauseous/Sick

People with prolonged exposure to lead may also be at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and reduced fertility.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have determined that lead is cancer-causing in humans.

How You Can Keep Yourself and Your Family Safe From Lead

  • The first step is to have your job tested for lead hazards so you know what risks you face. LEADCHECK offer a full analysis service to help you comply with UK Regulations.

  • Eat and/or drink in areas where lead or lead-containing products are not being handled or processed.
  • Use an effective lead removal product to clean your hands. Researchers have found that washing hands with standard soap and water is not enough to remove lead residues from your skin. LEADCHECK can supply you with a quick and easy hand wipe technology to let workers know instantly if they have lead on their hands. We can also supply a decontamination towel, which removes 98% of lead residues from skin.

  • Shower and change clothes and shoes after working with or around lead-based products. This will keep lead dust from being tracked through your home, which will lower the chance of your family being exposed.

  • Work in areas that are well-ventilated.

  • Wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), such as goggles, masks, and protective clothing, to prevent contact while working around lead and lead dust. LEADCHECK can supply you with a full range of safety products.

  • Talk with your doctor about workplace lead exposure if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

  • Talk with your employer to see if they do routine BLL testing; this is a simple blood test that can measure your blood lead levels. If not, you may also talk with your doctor about getting this test done. If levels are high, you can take the above steps to protect yourself and your family.

  • If you are a working mum who may be exposed to lead while still breast feeding, consult your pediatrician to decide if you should have your blood lead level (BLL) tested.

  • Contact LEADCHECK and request to have your work environment assessed if you have concerns that you are being exposed to lead.

  • Check out the links at the bottom of this web page for more ways to lower job-related lead exposure, and to learn about recommendations for specific industries.