Telecom Workers: Protect Your Health and Your Future by Taking Advantage of Your Employer's Blood Lead Testing Program
Our Health and Safety department has been following up with employers about their voluntary blood lead testing programs after recent news reports that highlighted concerns around lead in telecommunications. Initial reports from two of the major employers indicate that very few members have chosen to undergo blood lead level (BLL) testing.
We strongly encourage all members engaged in telecommunications work involving lead to participate in your employer’s voluntary blood lead testing program. Your health matters, and these tests are a crucial step in protecting you from the potential risks associated with lead exposure. Employees meeting their employer’s eligibility criteria should follow their employer’s policy for requesting and obtaining this test. These voluntary programs should be conducted on company time with no loss in pay or impact on performance metrics. Please be assured that the healthcare provider conducting your blood lead test must follow a specific protocol for blood lead testing and the laboratory that analyzes your blood sample for lead must also follow a specific protocol. Your blood is only being tested for lead and your employer plays no role in the medical conduct of the blood lead test.
Early detection and monitoring of lead levels in your blood can give you valuable information about your health status, while employers can better assess the effectiveness of their lead management programs and implement necessary safeguards.
A blood lead test provides you with information about your recent exposures to lead, typically within the past month. Promptly getting a blood lead test as soon as possible after an exposure is crucial because lead does not remain in the bloodstream. From the blood, some of the lead will be excreted from the body in urine while some may accumulate in and cause damage to various organs such as the kidneys, liver, lungs, brain, spleen, muscles, heart, bones, and teeth.
If a blood lead test reveals the presence of lead in your blood and you have been working with or near lead within the past month, this means that you have been exposed to lead. Once armed with this knowledge, it becomes essential to determine the source(s) of exposure and ensure you have the necessary safeguards and information to avoid further exposure. Your employer bears the responsibility of providing lead-related training and ensuring the availability of personal protective equipment and protocols to prevent exposure.
In the event that you have been working with or around lead within the past month and your blood lead test shows no detectable lead, that’s a good thing because it indicates an absence of work-related exposure during that period. It is advisable to continue following safety practices to maintain your well-being.
Lead is toxic and can have serious health consequences, including neurological and reproductive issues. While a blood lead test cannot predict the development of a specific lead-related illness, the presence of lead in your blood signals an elevated risk of adverse health outcomes. It is important to note that a blood lead test does NOT provide information regarding past exposures or the presence of lead from previous exposures that may have accumulated in your bones or organs.
We urge you to schedule your blood lead test today – it's a proactive step toward a safer and healthier future for you and your family. You can learn more about testing for and preventing exposure to lead in telecommunications here.
This post originally appeared on cwa-union.org.