In many sectors, workers can be exposed to lead during their activities (e.g. production of lead accumulators, restoration of stained glass windows and lead-containing coatings, welding, recycling). Workers’ exposure is assessed by measuring their lead blood levels. Because of lead’s perennial biological half-life, decreased exposure and more efficient protective measures can only be determined with large time lags. Correlations between lead blood vs. lead in air exhibit large uncertainties. Therefore, reliable assessment is not possible.
Meanwhile, the biological limit value (BGW) has been lowered to 150 µg/l. Due to previous work-related exposure to lead, workers may show critical levels above the new BGW for several years. To assess the efficacy of protective measures, this new BGW is applicable only for workers without increased exposure to lead in their pasts.
In this project, five enterprises with about ten workers each will be examined regarding the question if other biomarkers (e.g. lead in plasma or urine) describe the current exposure more reliably. In this way, direct assessment of the current exposure and its variation depending on the activities performed and the protective measures used should be made possible. Simultaneously, in all enterprises external (inhalative and dermal) and internal exposure (biomonitoring) of the workers shall be determined.
The results of this research serve to further develop the Technical Rule for Hazardous Substances (TRGS) 505 "Lead". Furthermore, they support revising the Guideline of the Association of the Scientific Medical Societies in Germany (AWMF) in the search for alternative biomarkers to describe the current exposure to lead.
Unit 4.4 "Measurement of Hazardous Substances"
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