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Lead-Safe Wisconsin: Occupational Lead Exposure

Lead is a toxic metal that can be found in the workplace. Workplace lead is common in many industries, including construction, manufacturing, and transportation. Workers are exposed to lead when manufacturing lead products (e.g., plumbing fixtures, rechargeable batteries, lead bullets) or repairing and removing these materials (e.g., radiator repair and lead-acid battery recycling). Lead accumulates in the body over time. That’s why prevention is so important.

Continued lead exposure can make adults sick or disabled. It can cause damage to vital organs, including the brain, and increase the risk of cancer.

Lead can also cause reproductive problems in both men and women. Men can experience testicular problems, while women can develop hypertension during pregnancy. Lead can also increase a woman’s risk of serious reproductive problems, including:

  • Delivering a low birth-weight baby.
  • Miscarriage.
  • Preterm delivery.

Preterm and low birth-weight babies have a higher risk of other health problems. Babies exposed to lead in the uterus are also more likely to experience developmental delays and reduced IQ after birth.

More information on how workers can protect themselves and their families is available on our Protecting Adults from Lead Exposure page.

Wisconsin’s efforts to prevent occupational lead exposure

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Division of Public Health (DPH) runs three programs focused on lead poisoning prevention: the Adult Lead Program, Asbestos and Lead Certification, and Wisconsin Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention.

The Adult Lead Program is part of Wisconsin’s Occupational Health and Safety Surveillance Program. The program provides resource for workers, employers, health professionals, and researchers and laboratories. The program oversees Wisconsin’s Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance Program (the ABLES system). Its goal is to build Wisconsin’s ability to measure trends in adult blood lead levels and prevent exposure to lead in the workplace.

Federal efforts to prevent occupational lead exposure

In addition to state programs, there are federal programs that monitor lead exposure in the workplace. These include ABLES at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The ABLES Program tracks workplace lead exposure nationally and develops guidelines to protect workers from lead. Find workplace lead publications from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Learn more about OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)’s exposure standards and recommendations on evaluating and controlling lead exposure. OSHA is the regulatory body for occupational hazards, including lead. Its recommendations on prevention are important resources for occupational health. OSHA has also made reducing lead exposure a high priority.

Last revised November 9, 2022