Preventing Lead Poisoning in Bridge Construction Workers

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Summary Statement

Workers involved in the repair of infrastructure -- including bridges and roads -- are at risk for exposure to lead and lead poisoning. Because of these risks, in 1990, the Yale University School of Medicine, the Connecticut Department of Public Health and Addiction Services (CDPHAS), the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CONNDOT), and CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) initiated the Connecticut Road Industry Surveillance Project (CRISP) to reduce lead toxicity in bridge workers through the incorporation of protective measures into contracts in addition to the use of regulatory measures. The two principal elements of CRISP are 1) detailed medical and environmental specifications (such as medical examinations and industrial hygiene) for monitoring and reducing occupational lead exposures at bridge sites -- these specifications are included in the construction contracts and are paid for by CONNDOT under the terms of the contract; and 2) a centralized, statewide surveillance system to monitor blood lead levels (BLLs) in workers. Since 1993, CONNDOT has mandated that, for jobs associated with potential lead exposures, both the bids and contracts explicitly address lead-control activities, including the need for an industrial hygienist to monitor every project, personal and ambient airborne lead sampling, minimum standards for protective equipment, and standardized comprehensive medical monitoring (using the CRISP protocol). BLLs for the most highly exposed work categories declined substantially during 1991-1993 and remained relatively stable during 1994. The findings in this report indicate that after implementation of CRISP, BLLs decreased substantially among Connecticut bridge workers. Evaluation of these results is complicated by the concurrent promulgation (in 1993) by OSHA of the Interim Final Standard for Lead in Construction, a comprehensive standard for lead control in the construction industry.

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