You may have heard about some of the common symptoms of lead poisoning, such as nausea, vomiting, headaches and dizziness. However, in many cases, construction workers are exposed to lead particles repeatedly over time—many of whom shrug off further symptoms of insomnia, moodiness, joint pain and decreased sex drive. It is only when acute lead exposure leads to tremors, convulsions, or even sudden death that victims and families ever realize that they had suffered from a work injury.

While many adults who suffer from lead poisoning may not notice the early symptoms, it is common for victims of acute lead poisoning to become symptomatic when their blood lead levels (BLLs) become higher than 80 millionths of a gram per deciliter (µg/dl). Consider how slight that number is when NJ bridge workers who have suffered lead poisoning in the past were working on:

  • Bridge rehabilitation. Studies from the New Jersey Department of Health revealed that torch burners were exposed to up to 6,000µg of airborne lead particles when performing work in semi-confined area. Workers in charge of hammering and drilling on the same project suffered similar exposure from disturbing lead-painted surfaces.
  • Bridge demolition. In one case reported by the New Jersey Department of Health in 1990, torch burners and riveters were cutting beams on a bridge, each with assistance from additional workers were exposed to 180–1,800µg of airborne lead.
  • Paint removal. Blasters who were stripping paint from a bridge in 1989 were exposed to 640–1,400µg of lead outside of their respirators, and 230–860µg inside their respirators. Power tool operators on the same job who were spot-cleaning an existing surface suffered lead exposure of 80–790µg.
  • Bridge repair. Welders are commonly exposed to 2,200–4,200µg, burners to 840–4,900µg, and blasters anywhere up to 10,400µg.

Unfortunately, the exposure risk does not stop when the workday is over. Bridge workers will often experience chronic lead poisoning as lead builds up in the body over time—as the particles move through the bloodstream and become lodged in the bones. Victims may experience the effects of lead poisoning long after exposure has ceased, often brought on by an intervening event such as an illness or pregnancy. Patients may suffer a sudden release of stored lead particles into the bloodstream, causing damage to the central nervous system, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, reproductive problems, or even damage a developing fetus—all of which can occur in patients who show a BLLs of 50 µg/dl or less.

If you have more questions about lead poisoning in bridge workers, New Jersey construction accident lawyer Manfred F. Ricciardelli, Jr. can give you straightforward legal advice in your FREE consultation. Call our offices today at 877-360-0183 or click the link above to download our FREE informational guide, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know: Your Workers Comp Guide.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer