Many hobbies and industries can expose adults to lead. If precautions are not taken, this can lead to dangerous levels of lead exposure to the adult and also put their family at risk.
Health Effects in Adults
Lead exposure is dangerous for adults, and there are many sources for exposure in the workplace or with hobbies. Lead can be inhaled (breathed in) through fumes and dust, ingested (eaten) if dust settles on your hands or other objects, or absorbed through the skin. You can be exposed to lead dust in the air of buildings where these activities take place, so even if you did not work directly with a lead-containing material you could still be exposed to lead on your clothing. Symptoms of adult lead poisoning include:
- High blood pressure
- Joint and muscle pain
- Difficulties with memory or concentration
- Abdominal pain
- Mood disorders
- Reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm
- Miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature birth in pregnant women
You may experience lead poisoning from a single, high-dose (acute) exposure to lead or many smaller amounts over time (chronic) exposure. Either can cause negative health effects.
Lead at work
Industries where you can be exposed to lead include: building renovation and painting, mining, smelting, battery recycling, refinishing old furniture, auto body work, and shooting ranges. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides more information about workplace exposure on their website.
Lead in hobbies
Hobbies where you can be exposed to lead include: hunting, shooting at indoor firing ranges, fishing, stained glass, making pottery, and stock cars. Lead can be found in shot, fishing sinkers and jigs, came and solder used in making stained glass, dyes and glazes used in pottery, and many other items.
The good news is that simple prevention measures can keep you and your family safe from sources of lead in at work and from sources outside the home:
- Never put leaded materials in your mouth
- Wear recommended PPE (personal protective equipment) and work in a well-ventilated area
- Avoid handling food, smoking, or touching your face while working with lead materials
- Wash your hands before eating, drinking, or smoking when working with lead materials
- Shower and change clothes before entering your vehicle or your home
- Wash your work clothes separately from your family’s clothes
- Keep all work and hobby materials away from living areas