California Governor Gavin Newsom has recently signed a bill intended to protect statewide workers from lead poisoning, Safety + Health Magazine reports.
Under the new law (A.B. 35), workers who are found to have high blood lead levels (BLL) will be referred to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) by the state’s Department of Public Health.
“Without this important legislation, countless numbers of employees will remain exposed to lead in their jobs, making them vulnerable to irreparable neurological damage and heart disease,” explained Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) who sponsored the bill.
“A.B. 35 will help to ensure proper oversight and that timely action is taken by our state agencies when elevated exposures to lead are reported,” said Kalra.
How will A.B. 35 protect workers?
Once a laboratory report showing 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (or more) is identified, workers are to be referred to Cal/OSHA within five business days. At this level, lead poisoning is considered to be injurious to workers and constitutes a serious violation on part of employers.
Following a referral, the law requires Cal/OSHA to launch an investigation within three days of an incident and complete it within six months. An employer who is found to violate the law will likely face citations and fines, which will be made publicly available.
What are the risks of lead exposure?
Lead exposure has been linked to serious health conditions and illnesses in both children and adults. Adults who are frequently exposed to lead may develop hypertension, kidney disease, cognitive dysfunction, and several other health conditions.
MayoClinic lists the most common symptoms associated with lead poisoning in adults. These include:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Joint and muscle pain
- Impaired memory or concentration
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in mood
- Reduced sperm count
- Among pregnant women – miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature birth risks
Who is most at risk of lead poisoning?
According to a 2017 report released by the California Department of Public Health, more than 6,000 statewide workers were found to have BLLs at or above 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. Roughly 60 percent of workers with elevated BLLs worked in manufacturing and 14 percent in construction.
Those who handled bullets and firearms, worked in ammunition manufacturing, gun repair shops, or in shooting ranges were especially at risk of lead poisoning.
What are my legal options if I become ill on the job due to lead exposure?
If you have developed any work-related health condition due to lead exposure, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If you work in an industry where you are regularly exposed to lead, you will likely need prolonged time away from work.
An experienced San Diego workers’ compensation attorney at the McLaughlin & Sanchez can help guide you through the complex process of filing a claim and pursuing benefits. Our legal team knows how the system works and how to reduce the likelihood of your claim being denied.
To find out how we can help, contact us online and schedule your free case review with an attorney today.