March 27, 2014 | In: Industries

3 Industries that Need to Take Lead Abatement More Seriously

The industrial use of lead remains a hot debate. Society knows of the dangers and the consequences are indeed real, but many of the world’s Lead has turned into a major problem for various industries, including toy manufacturing. manufacturers still add this dangerous heavy metal to their products. There are legal limits and regulations for the use of lead in many countries, but jurisdiction and borders makes these laws inconsistent when put under the microscope. As a result, it’s not uncommon to hear the occasional recall or for products that have abnormally high lead content. What’s worse, is that these products are everyday items which both young and old consume.

Of course, contamination can occur in any industry, but there are those that are more prone or are more well-known than others. Three of the industries that need to re-examine their lead abatement strategies include the toy, cosmetic, and ceramic industry. These are products which you can find in virtually every home in North America, and it’s frightening to know that manufacturers pump these products out by the droves. Fortunately, it’s not a hopeless battle and there are safety tips that everyone can take to remain healthy.

Why Companies Use Lead

The use of lead isn’t accidental. For thousands of years, the makers of various products have relied on the metal for its versatility. Middle Eastern societies, including Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria made use of lead in their glassware from since the 15th century BC. Ancient China also used lead extensively in their own glass products. Roman architecture and infrastructure is well-known to make use of lead, especially their pipe system. Of course, there are historians who believe that lead poisoning may have contributed to the decline of the empire.

Lead abatement will take a conscientious effort from industrial and government officials. Researchers discovered more benefits associated with the metal as time progressed. The low melting temperature of lead (327 degrees fahrenheit) makes lead very malleable, so it’s easy to cast, shape and join products made with the compound. The high density of the metal is perfect for weighing applications and provides shielding against radiation, vibration, and sound. It’s easy to see why companies have resorted to the use of lead in order to build their products. Of course, this has come at a price for the consumers- namely poisoning that leads to ill-health. Lead abatement has turned into a necessary practice for facilities in numerous industries and has led to positive results. Yet still, there are sectors where the problem rages on.

Industries Where Lead is Still a Problem

In recent years, product recalls have garnered significant media attention, many of them due to high lead content. Concerns over contamination have come under the spotlight even in cases where there have been no recalls. Studies and documentaries have taken “inside” looks at how common products are manufactured, making the high toxicity a matter of public knowledge.

Toys

One of the most frightening cases of lead contamination is within the toy industry. Although the use of lead in toys was largely banned, it’s not unusual for testing and sampling to reveal high amounts of the metal in these products. Paint is often the source. Although the Canadian and United States governments have imposed bans on lead paint, there is still the risk of imported toys from countries where such laws are not in place. Plastic used to constructed toys are also problematic since manufacturers used lead to make the plastic in toys more flexible. Exposure to the air, sunlight, and detergents breaks the chemical bond between lead and plastic, thus, triggering a release of the metal.

Cosmetics

There are have been more reports about the use of lead in lipstick- allegations that authorities have confirmed. Although there is a dispute, analyses conducted by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that up to 400 shades of lipstick contained lead levels higher than legal limits. The testing revealed well-known brands such as L’Oreal and Cover Girl as offenders. The FDA went to say that consumers don’t have to be concerned since the lead levels are not high enough to cause illness. However, many disagree with these statements. It is well-known that repeated exposure to even small amounts of lead can cause poisoning.

Ceramics and Pottery

As mentioned earlier, ancient empires used lead in a variety of their objects and architecture. Ceramic ware and pottery were among those objects, and the same still holds true today. Many people may have these items in their homes and don’t realize the risks. Ceramic vessels that contain highly decorated glazes are more dangerous since they often require more lead to maintain their appearance. Lead absorption through the skin is minimal, but the danger of these objects rest in the fact that their polymer coatings degrade over time. This is especially dangerous if you store food in these vessels since lead can leach into your meals. Although there are companies that claim to manufacture lead-free ceramic ware, it is known that a significant amount of these items remain toxic.

How Does Lead Abatement Factor in

Depending on the circumstances, the total removal of lead from a particular facility may not be entirely possible. It’s important to remember that lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal. As mentioned in previous segments, imported products (in the case of toys) can make lead abatement a challenging task unless the company thoroughly tests and imposes restrictions against their suppliers. The solution does seem simple – refrain from using lead in consumer products. However, this is easier said than done for smaller companies. Regardless of the difficulties, it’s essential that these industries address the issue to preserve their customers’ health as well as their own.

What to Do if You Work in One of these Industries

  • Has your facility tested and “treated” – If you’re working with products that release lead into your environment, it’s wise for you to seek testing and lead abatement servicing. Additional contamination will only make matters worse, by tainted other items or products.

  • Reduce your exposure and preserve your health – Also important are your efforts to reduce your own exposure. Failure to do so can result in long-lasting health problems. Lead can affect various organs in the body, including the brain, blood vessels, kidneys, and dental problems. Therefore, consider getting a blood test and following the recommended course of treatment if lead poisoning is present.

  • Fight for lead alternatives if possible – If you are in a position of authority, then you should strive to meet with your colleagues to discuss a way to reduce your company’s use of lead. This may be challenging, but it’s worthwhile if you want to preserve the health of your staff and consumers, as well as your business reputation.

What it’s Going to Take

It will take a concentrated and combined effort on behalf of the industrial, medical, and government sectors to curb lead contamination in commerce. Not everyone will agree with the standards and laws that may need to be implemented, but diligence on the part of world officials will be the only way to limit lead poisoning. Within your own organization, you can make an effort to keep this heavy metal from turning into a major health hazard. Consider hiring a lead abatement specialist where possible. In addition to this, stay proactive about finding alternative ways to manufacture products. Your approach to the issue has the potential to make a big difference in consumer safety.

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