DefinitionIncidence and prevalence rates of New Jersey adults reported to have elevated blood lead levels in a specified time interval.
NumeratorAll reported state residents age 16 years or older with a blood lead level greater than or equal to 25 ug/dL.
All reported state residents age 16 years or older with a blood lead level greater than or equal to 40 ug/dL.
DenominatorTotal number of employed persons age 16 years or older for the same calendar year.
Data Interpretation IssuesBlood lead levels can give an idea of recent exposure to lead, 3 to 5 weeks before being tested. However, it is not an effective indicator of body burden of lead resulting from long-term exposure. These data are based on an adult lead surveillance system that uses laboratory (N.J.A.C. 8:44-2.11) and health care provider (N.J.A.C. 8.58-1.5) reporting. The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lead regulations require monitoring blood lead levels for workers when air concentrations of lead exceed a certain limit. However, OSHA regulations do not require blood lead testing for all workers who handle lead. These data are therefore subject to significant underreporting.
Why Is This Important?Among adults, lead poisoning is primarily a preventable occupational health problem. Lead exposure in adults can cause anemia, nervous system dysfunction, kidney problems, hypertension, decreased fertility and miscarriages. Lead exposure may also harm children and other family members through contamination unintentionally brought home from the workplace.
Possible sources of non-occupational lead exposure to adults may include:
lead-contaminated dust created during home renovations; engaging in a hobby that involves lead (example: bullet making); food stored in lead-soldered cans or improperly glazed pottery; some traditional folk remedies and cosmetics; and some sources of tap water.
Healthy People Objective: Reduce the proportion of persons who have elevated blood lead concentrations from work exposuresU.S. Target: 20.2 persons per 100,000 employed adults
Other Objectives'''Revised Healthy New Jersey 2020 Objective OSH-3''': Reduce the proportion of persons who have elevated (greater than or equal to 25ug/dL) blood lead concentrations from work exposures to 1.2 per 100,000 employed persons. ''Original target: 1.6''
How Are We Doing?In New Jersey, there has been a trend towards decreasing blood lead levels in adults over time. However, this should be interpreted cautiously for a variety of reasons including an overall decrease in manufacturing in New Jersey, the closing of a large lead acid battery manufacturing facility in the state, and the implementation of an electronic reporting system which more efficiently collects and de-duplicates reported lead cases. Despite these overall trends, the NJDOH still routinely finds elevated blood lead values greater than or equal to 25g/dL in workers employed in certain industries. Employers are required to offer annual medical exams to workers who have BLLs greater than or equal to 40 g/dL.
What Is Being Done?The NJDOH Occupational Health Surveillance Unit identifies high-risk workplaces and provides many services, including: education and outreach to community groups, unions, trade organizations and medical professionals and individual referrals to board- certified occupational medicine physicians for clinical follow-up and medical management. In certain cases, the program may refer employers to federal OSHA for an enforcement inspection.
Health Program InformationAdditional information on surveillance and services related to the prevention of occupational lead poisoning can be obtained from:
NJ Department of Health
Occupational Health Surveillance Unit
PO Box 369
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Phone: (609) 826-4984
Fax: (609) 826-4983