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QUESTION: Acceptable blood-lead levels for employees working in the demolition of a redundant mine 14 May 2008 NSW, Australia


i am trying to track down a figure relating to the acceptable blood-lead levels for employees working in the demolition of a redundant mine. There seem to be a few different figures floating around.

Please advise

EMAIL TWO From: David Brandalise Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thank you Elizabeth,

I look forward to receiving your info pack.‍

ANSWER: 14 May 2008

Hi David,

The reason that there are a few different "acceptable blood lead level" figures floating around is that the acceptable blood lead level in policy and regulation has always been set on the basis of political and economic considerations, not health!

In my view the only acceptable blood lead level, once you know what lead can do to you, is zero. No one on the planet has a level of zero so, if you aim for an achievable level, then recent research into health effects would recommend being below 2 micrograms per decilitre (2 g/dL). I will email you our Info Pack on the dangers of a blood lead level above 2 g/dL which ably backs up my contention.

When it comes to occupational situations, the most recently recommended "acceptable" blood lead level (taking into account I believe, that industry would have gone berserk if the truly acceptable level was chosen) is 10 g/dL (if a person is expected to have a working life of 40 years). You can read the exact recommendation in our Info Pack on OH&S in Relation to Lead. If you are actually asking what level is acceptable to the government, then tragically, the answer from the national code of practice is 50 g/dL - a level not reviewed since 1994 despite a multitude of evidence to state that the level is too high. Some mining companies sensibly ignore the out-of-date government level and find for instance, a level of 35 or 30 g/dL "acceptable" to them, and they review the figure downwards as time (and research) goes on.

Even more tragically, in some states with totally antiquated mining regulations, the blood lead level is regarded as "acceptable" for people who work in a mine, at ANY LEVEL. In other words, the employer is still meant to provide a safe working environment but no specific action is actually required (like moving the guy off the job) no matter what blood lead level is reached.

Wouldn't it be wonderful for the sake of your mine demolition workers and their children and future children, if you were to test blood lead levels prior to the mine demolition starting and again within a couple of days of the work starting, and ALL the levels came back below 2 g/dL? If further tests a few weeks later or half way through the work (whichever comes first) show no elevation in the levels, then you know you have a lead-safe process and protocols are being adhered to.

ANY rise in blood lead levels should be followed by review of the process and review and action on adherence to protocols. I'm happy to help out further if any rise occurs.

All the best with the work.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth OBrien

Safe lead levels may be halved, 25 January, 2012

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