Corrected: Workers at certified facilities exposed to high lead levels

Corrected: Workers at certified facilities exposed to high lead levels

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

A government investigation has revealed unsettling lead exposure issues at a pair of dual R2- and e-Stewards-certified recycling facilities.

In a July 23 letter to the Basel Action Network (BAN), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) outlined preliminary findings from ongoing investigations at the pair of electronics recycling facilities. Workers directly involved with CRT processing were found to have elevated blood lead levels, as did employees outside of CRT processing areas.

The two undisclosed facilities are both R2- and e-Stewards-certified, according to NIOSH.

The findings point to the possibility of lead dust migrating from the CRT processing areas into separate areas of the facilities. In addition, two children of an employee were found to have elevated blood lead levels. NIOSH concluded that to be evidence of "take-home" contamination, in which lead on the clothing or skin of the employee is thought to have affected the children.

The NIOSH letter states that the investigations began "at the request of the employers" and encourages BAN, which provides oversight for the e-Stewards standard, to improve upon its guidelines, which already go above and beyond current legal requirements.

In light of the preliminary findings, both the Basel Action Network and R2 Solutions are promising action to address the issue.

BAN issued a response to the findings in a letter to current and prospective e-Stewards-certified recycling facilities. In it, BAN supported the initial findings of NIOSH and proposed to expand the certification regulations, especially as they relate to migrating lead dust and employee blood testing. BAN also encouraged e-Stewards-certified facilities to request that NIOSH investigate their operations to ensure worker safety.

In a statement to E-Scrap News BAN's Jim Puckett expressed his concern about lead exposure and detailed the ongoing work BAN is doing to improve upon the e-Stewards standard: "The warning from the NIOSH scientists to us could not be ignored, particularly when we are hearing that children may at risk from workers bringing lead dusts home on their clothing. … At this juncture our Leadership Council has endorsed adding some simple requirements to the standard that will have the effect of raising awareness, gathering more data, and calling for common sense actions to be taken immediately."

R2, which received "much the same info [and data] that BAN received," according to R2 Solutions executive director John Lingelbach, has also responded to the investigation, addressing the situation in its July 2013 newsletter.

Lingelbach told E-Scrap News that the issue will also be brought up in the group's upcoming R2:2013 Guidance Document. "When the NIOSH report is formally published, we will evaluate whether further Guidance language is appropriate or whether reopening the R2:2013 Standard is necessary," Lingelbach said.

Acute and chronic exposure to lead in children and adults has been shown to result in a variety of health problems. The NIOSH letter goes on to explain that the current lead exposure law "has not been updated to reflect the current scientific knowledge regarding the health effects of lead exposure." R2 and e-Stewards were created in large part to develop more stringent and progressive practices, although they are voluntary forms of conformance and practice and therefore not mandated by state or government officials.

This issue will be covered in greater detail by Dr. Diana Ceballos of NIOSH at the upcoming E-Scrap Conference in Orlando, Florida.

*Correction: The original version of this article stated BAN requested the letter from NIOSH, which is incorrect. BAN requested additional information from NIOSH and as a result, a letter was sent to the organization.

Additionally, the original version of this article said the investigations began at request of employees, when in fact it began at the request of employers.

E-Scrap News apologizes for the errors.

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Error in Article - Investigation @ Request of Management

The article states that the investigations were "at the request of the employees" when in fact the letter states that they were at the request of the "employers"; e.g. the company management.  The Health Hazard Evaluation Program through NIOSH is a voluntary program in which employers seeking to improve their operations above and beyond current legal requirements to protect their employees can request the help of health experts to ensure they are doing everything they can.

It is important to note this, because these two organizations are the first ones taking the voluntary steps to improve, before e-Stewards or R2 were aware of an issue, or any standard had to required them to do additional testing and investigation.  These two organizations are leading by example and should be commended for their efforts to have a true understanding of their hazards and address them.

Re: Error in Article - Investigation @ Request of Management

Thank you for noting the errors. We have corrected the article and stated what was changed.

Dylan de Thomas
Editorial Director
Resource Recycling, Inc.
(503) 233-1305 ext. 116