Leave lead at work!


By Rossany Auceda, Iowa Department of Health and Human Services

There is nothing more comforting than coming home after a long day at work and greeting your loved ones with a hug.

However, some occupations involve working with hazardous materials like lead that could put in danger the children’s health when being in close contact with them. Some of the main occupations in Iowa include home repair contractors, metal welding, radiator repair and maintenance, lead battery manufacturing and recycling, and indoor and outdoor shooting range workers.  Hobbies like collecting or repairing antiques, making lead sinkers or ammunition, and doing your own home repairs can also expose you and your family to toxic lead. 


Lead poisoning occurs when an adult comes home from work or a hobby involving lead and hugs or plays with a child before removing clothing that could be contaminated with lead dust. Children become lead-poisoned from breathing in and eating the lead dust from contaminated clothing, shoes, and body of the lead-contaminated adult.


The best way to avoid this type of contamination is to shower and leave your work clothes at work before returning home. If you don’t have a shower at work, wash your face, neck, arms, and hands with soap and water, and change your clothes. Another alternative is to come home through the least used door, leave your shoes outside and go to the nearest bathroom, leaving your dirty clothes in a plastic bag. By the way, these clothes should not be mixed or washed with other clothes and should be washed last.

If you think you or your child has been exposed to lead from work or a hobby, contact your healthcare provider and ask for a blood lead test. Most children and adults who are exposed to lead have no symptoms. The only way to know if you or your child has been exposed is with a blood lead test. Your healthcare provider can help you decide if a blood lead test is needed and can also recommend appropriate follow-up steps if you or your child has been exposed. There is no safe level of lead, so if left untreated can lead to long-term learning, health, and behavioral problems. 

For more information on preventing and treating lead poisoning, contact the Iowa Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 800-972-2026 or the Spanish line at (515) 281-7230.

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