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QUESTION: Has any research ever been undertaken on telecommunications workers and their families in this line of work? 24/05/09   New South Wales, Australia

During the period 1985 to 1993 I worked consistently for Telecom working mostly with large sized lead sheathed cables, some installed as long ago as 1939. The work involved removing lead sleeves and reinstalling on completion of wire work within. This involved using a gas torch to heat and melt the old solder. Re installing required unrolling a 25 kg sheet of 3mm thick lead cutting and forming around the cable joint. My hands were always blackened doing this task. I would then heat up some fatty substance called stearine used as a type of flux to clean off residue to allow solder to stick and also used to cool after plumbing. I would generally use between eight and sixteen sticks of 35/65 solder to seal up the sleeve. Afterwards I found my throat congested with the congealed stearine as I was breathing in the heated fumes during this work. It was always carried out inside a street manhole sometimes covered with a small 'igloo' or tent. This work is not the normal display that the public see of a technician soldering a cross connect pillar in the stret or in a telephone exchange. I did have a blood test about 1990 and the result was 49 parts of something, I cannot remember exactly. There is a lot of these cables still  in existence.

My question is "has any research ever been undertaken on telecommunications workers and their families in this line of work?"

ANSWER: May 25 2009

Dear William,

Because lead poisoning can demonstrate some manifestations that may be attributed to other causes, it is very important to do the blood test again to reach an accurate diagnosis of lead poisoning. I would suggest to revisit your GP and ask him for a blood lead level test and he can bulk bill it so that you won't pay anything. Regarding research on telecommunication workers, I have found a site that might interest you. Lead exposure and lead poisoning in the Bell Telephone System (Now available on The LEAD Group's website)

This link has some safety regulations to avoid lead poisoning Lead-safety for today’s telecommunications worker.

This web site's intended audience includes all former and retired Bell System employees who had occupational exposure to lead, their families, descendants, and other interested parties. It is about Bell System employees who, along with their families, unknowingly experienced lead poisoning. 

All the best

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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