Industry Perspective On Safely Handling Lead
I work in a plant that
processes about 1,000,000 lbs of lead a week. You can work around lead for
years with no problems -- if you do your part.
My Main Point will be: Good Hygiene Is Your #1
And the corollary:
You are your own worst
enemy around lead.
Do Not Smelt Or Cast In Your Kitchen.
Make sure you have plenty of ventilation.
Don't eat, drink, or use tobacco products when you are playing with lead.
Don't keep your drinks, snacks, or tobacco products in the lead area.
Wash up good -- face and hands -- before you eat, drink, chew gum, or use
1. High Lead exposure causes reproductive problems causing
defects and low activity in male sperm, and defects in female eggs. It can
cause birth defects including nervous system and brain problems. Kids are
most at risk, but you and your spouse are at risk if you are planning to
have kids. Lead doses that wouldn't do any more than make you feel icky
hurt a kid.
2. Symptoms of lead exposure in adults
-- Feels like you have a cold or the flu. Runny nose, gravely throat,
coughing up crud, no energy, generally feel like crap.
3. If you feel especially crappy the
day after casting or smelting -- go check with your doctor. Blood lead
levels above 40 are in the danger zone. Levels above 20 means you need to
be more careful with hygiene, or need to wear a respirator around the lead
pot. Levels above 40 mean you need to get out of the leaded environment.
4. All is not lost, no need for
paranoia. Your body maintains a natural balance of lead in the blood below
15. If it temporarily gets too high, it will work itself back down in a
couple months. Drink lots and lots and lots of water.
5. If you are having lead poisoning
symptoms, go get medical treatment.
1. The main hazard activities are
anything that deals with Dross or Hot Lead -- Smelting, Casting, and
Handling Dross. Handling cast bullets and raw lead should not be a problem
unless you have really bad hygiene. Cheap Rubber gloves will protect you
from lead ingots and bullets.
Do Not Smelt Or Cast In Your Kitchen.
The kitchen is the absolute worst place you can do it -- and it will
guarantee you continuing problems with lead exposure.
3. Why casting in the house
is a bad idea:
A. Soft floors suck up
lead dust and hold it forever
B. People eat all over the house
typically blows dust all over the house.
D. Ventilation not
really setup to pull out smoke.
E. Kids and pets don't watch what goes
in the mouth.
Smelting/Casting Area: Lead dust and fumes are the problem. Lots of
ventilation is your friend. This means "Up and Out" with a good
ventilation fan that blows the air outside...
Blowing the lead oxide dust *Around* (box or desk fan) is just as bad as
Even with good
ventilation, you still have a 100% chance of lead dust getting on
everything in your "Lead Area" -- especially the floor. Lead is the
heaviest non-radioactive naturally occurring element. Lead oxide is
heavier than Iron, but is extremely fine powder -- like baby powder.
It hits the floor *Very* quickly and looks like a fine yellowish/brown
4. Smelting: Lead gasses off like crazy above 900F.
These gasses almost immediately oxidize in the air and float around your
room. Run your pot well under 900F.
5. Handle dross carefully and store it
in a closed container. It is very powdery and gets all over everything.
You absolutely will lead yourself up good from careless handling of dross.
Cheap rubber gloves and a dust mask are a really good idea here.
95% of your exposure will be through ingestion (Eating it) rather than
inhalation (Breathing it) Lead poisoning from skin contact is very
uncommon-- it just does not absorb through the skin.
Good Hygiene Is Your #1
1. Don't eat or drink in the "Lead
Area" We fire people who do.
2. Wash your hands and face after
casting or smelting. DO NOT EAT, DRINK, SMOKE, OR CHEW UNLESS YOU WASH
3. A good dust mask is
a really good idea when smelting or casting as it kills 2-birds with
1-stone.. They cost $7.00 – $12.00. If you taste metal when
casting, smelting, or when cleaning up – you need a dust mask.
4. Nothing goes in your mouth when
working around lead pots. This includes Tobacco use or gum. Cigarettes are
especially bad -- as lead gets into the tobacco, then burns and is carried
into the lungs.... Your dirty fingers touching the cigarette paper are
enough to get lead oxide on it. One cigarette is not enough -- but a
couple sessions smoking and smelting will lead you up like crazy.
5. Wear a sweat band or "Head Rag" to
keep the sweat from rolling into your mouth.
6. Shower off after smelting or
casting. Be sure to wash your hair too.
7. Wipe down your work areas after
8. Casting and smelting outside is
best. Indoor places with hard floors are good -- they are much
easier to clean. Make some floor sweeping compound (sawdust,
peat, or dry dirt + a little kerosene, veggie oil, or old
motor oil -- just enough to make it clumpy, not wet). Dust it
on the floor. It is "sticky" and catches the lead dust --
keeps it from getting back up in the air. Sawdust or peat
based sweep can be re-used as flux.
9. In conjunction with the floor sweep
stuff, buy a cheap shop-vac, a pack of bags, and get the optional $25.00
HEPA filter. Use this to vacuum up your area and your clothes once you are
done smelting and handling dross. Regular vacuums will blow the oxide all
over creation. Don't use this vacuum for anything else.
DON'T Use The House Vacuum Unless You Want To Lead
Up Your House.
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