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Lead, Inorganic (as Pb)

General Description

  • Synonyms: Synonyms vary depending upon specific compound (e.g., Lead oxide, Lead arsenate, Lead chromate)
  • OSHA IMIS Code Number: 1591
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 7439-92-1; 1317-36-8 (lead oxide); 7758-97-6 (lead chromate); 7784-40-9 (lead arsenate); 18454-12-1 (lead chromate oxide)
  • NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Identification Number: OF7525000
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, Lead: Chemical description, physical properties, potentially hazardous incompatibilities, and more
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Hazard Summary, Lead Compounds: Uses, sources and potential exposure, acute and chronic health hazard information, and more

Exposure Limits and Health Effects

Exposure Limit Limit Values HE Codes Health Factors and Target Organs
OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) - General Industry See 29 CFR 1910.1025Note: OSHA considers "lead" to mean elemental lead, all inorganic lead compounds, and a class of organic lead compounds called lead soaps. This standard does not apply to other organic lead compounds.Note: Large nonferrous foundries (20+ employees) are required to achieve the PEL of 0.05 mg/m3 by means of engineering and work practice controls. Small nonferrous foundries (<20 employees) are required to achieve an 8-hour TWA of 0.075 mg/m3 by such controls.
  • 0.05 mg/m3
  • TWA
  • 0.03 mg/m3
  • Action Level
HE3 Nephrotoxicity
HE5 Reproductive hazards
HE7 Cumulative neurologic effects
HE12 Cumulative blood effects
OSHA PEL - Construction Industry See 29 CFR 1926.62
  • 0.05 mg/m3
  • TWA
  • 0.03 mg/m3
  • Action Level
HE3 Constipation, nausea, pallor
HE5 Reproductive risks
HE7 Nervous irritability, hyperactivity, anxiety, insomnia, headache, weakness, numbness, dizziness
OSHA PEL - Shipyard Employment See  29 CFR 1915.1025
  • 0.05 mg/m3
  • TWA
  • 0.03 mg/m3
  • Action Level
HE3 Nephropathy, loss of kidney function, increased blood pressure
HE5 Reduced sperm count and male sterility
HE7 Subclinical and clinical peripheral neuropathy (muscle weakness, pain, and paralysis of extremities)
HE12 Disruption of hemesynthesis, anemia
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) See Appendix C Note: NIOSH considers "lead" to mean metallic lead, lead oxides, and lead salts (including organic salts such as lead soaps but excluding lead arsenate).
  • 0.05 mg/m3
  • TWA
  • Air concentrations should be maintained so that worker blood lead remains less than 0.06 mg Pb/100 g of whole blood
HE5 Reproductive toxicity, nephrotoxicity, cardiovascular toxicity, gastrointestinal toxicity
HE7 Neurotoxicity
HE12 Hematologic toxicity
American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV) (2001)
  • 0.05 mg/m3
  • TWA
  • A3; BEI
HE3 Cardiovascular toxicity, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, nephrotoxicity
HE5 Reproductive toxicity
HE7 Neurologic and neurobehavioral toxicity
HE12 Blood dyscrasias
CAL/OSHA PELs (See also Section 5198)
  • 0.05 mg/m3 Lead
  • (metallic and inorganic compounds), dust and fume, (as Pb)
HE3 Cardiovascular toxicity, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, nephrotoxicity
HE5 Reproductive toxicity
HE7 Neurologic and neurobehavioral toxicity

National Toxicology Program (NTP) carcinogenic classification: Reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen (PDF)

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) carcinogenic classification: Group 2B (PDF) (possibly carcinogenic to humans)

EPA carcinogenic classification: Probable human carcinogen - based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in animals

EPA Inhalation Reference Concentration (RfC): Not established

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Inhalation Minimal Risk Level (MRL): Not established

NIOSH Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) concentration: 100 mg/m3 (as Pb)

Notes on Other Potential Health Effects and Hazards

  1. Exposure to high levels of lead may cause miscarriage in pregnant women (ATSDR 2007).
  2. High Petrol-Lead Emission Areas (PLEA) might result in an increase in the incidence rate of brain cancer resulting from high lead exposures (Wu et al. 2012).
  3. Lead exposure below 70 mg/100 ml reduced neurobehavioral abilities, particularly visuospatial abilities and executive functions (Barth et al. 2002).
  4. Both NTP and IARC found limited evidence for carcinogenicity of lead smelter and battery industries, concluding that evidence from epidemiological studies is compatible with small increases in the risk of lung or stomach cancer (NTP 2010, IARC 2006).
  5. The OSHA lead standard targets a lead in blood level below 40 μg/dL, directing medical removal at a three test moving average of 50 μg/dL.
  6. The NTP concludes that there is sufficient evidence for adverse health effects in adults at blood Pb levels <10 μg/dL (increased blood pressure, tremor), and <5 μg/dL (kidney effects, developmental effects) as well, (NTP 2012).

Literature Basis

Date Last Revised: 12/11/2012

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method:
  • Mixed Cellulose Ester Filter (MCEF) 0.8 microns
  • maximum volume: 960 Liters
  • minimum volume: 480 Liters
  • maximum flow rate: 2.0 L/min
  • current analytical method: Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy; AAS
  • method reference: OSHA Manual of Analytical Methods (OSHA ID-121)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
  • alternate analytical method: Inductively Coupled Argon Plasma; ICP-AES/MS, AAS
  • method reference: OSHA Manual of Analytical Methods (OSHA ID-125G, OSHA ID-206, OSHA ID-105, OSHA 1006)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
  • note: If the filter is not overloaded, samples may be collected up to an 8-hour period.
On-Site Sampling Techniques/Methods:
  • note: On-site surface sampling test kits are commercially available. OSHA neither endorses these kits nor recommends their use. The effectiveness and applicability of these kits are the responsibility of the user.
Wipe Sampling Method:
  • Ghostwipe - Whatman Smear Tab filter. Moistened with Distilled Water.

** All Trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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