Medical Management of Lead-Exposed Adults - Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the health effects of lead?
- What is an “average” blood lead level?
- How has our understanding about the health effects of lead changed?
- How can I get a copy of the new recommendations?
- What help is available for health care providers who want to follow the new recommendations in their practice?
- Are there similar guidelines for medical management of lead-poisoned children?
1. What are the health effects of lead?
Click here to see the OLPPP factsheet Lead and Your Health.
2. What is an “average” blood lead level?
The average blood lead level for adults in the United States is currently 1 microgram per deciliter (µg/dL). This is significantly lower than in the 1970’s, when the average blood lead level for adults was 13 µg/dL. The decrease is due in large part to the removal of lead from gasoline, residential paint, and canned food.
3. How has our understanding about the health effects of lead changed?
Current research shows that lead is harmful to the body at lower levels, levels that were previously thought safe. This is especially true if a person is exposed over a long period of time. Lead exposure has been shown to contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure, nervous system and kidney damage, and problems with pregnancy. Even if a person is not currently being exposed to lead, this health damage can continue as lead that is stored in bones gradually moves back into the bloodstream.
4. How can I get a copy of the new recommendations?
Recommendations for Medical Management of Adult Lead Exposure were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in March 2007and are widely available. OLPPP provides this information and the journal article to occupational medicine specialists, primary care providers, poison control centers, health departments, laboratories, health and safety professionals, employers, and others on a regular basis.
5. What help is available for health care providers who want to follow the new recommendations in their practice?
The Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (OLPPP) has developed resources specifically for health care providers: In April 2009 we published updated guidelines for health care providers, Medical Guidelines for the Lead-Exposed Worker. The guidelines review recent scientific information and make health-based recommendations on how to provide state-of-the-art care for lead-exposed adults. They also cover specific medical requirements of the Cal/OSHA lead standards. OLPPP has also recently updated our FREE ONLINE CME COURSE for health care providers, Overview of Adult Occupational Lead Poisoning in California.
6. Are there similar guidelines for medical management of lead-poisoned children?
Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed guidelines for health professionals that care for lead-exposed children. To see this publication, go to Managing Elevated Blood Lead Levels Among Young Children - Recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention,” March 2002. You can also call 1-888-232-6789 (toll-free) to obtain a printed copy of the Case Management document.
Medical Management of Lead-Exposed Adults main page
Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (OLPPP) home page
Occupational Health Branch (OHB) home page