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Construction Lead: Identification, Remediation and Personal Protection, 29 CFR 1926

Quick Tips #165


In October 1992, President Bush signed Section 1031 of Title X of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992, requiring OSHA to develop an interim standard for lead in the construction industry. This interim standard had to provide guidelines for protecting construction workers from occupational exposure to lead. On May 4, 1993, OSHA unveiled the final interim rule for lead in the construction industry. This can be found in Subpart D of Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1926.62. The following will cover some of the highlights of this standard. For more information, consult OSHA's rules on construction lead including lead identification, remediation and personal protection, as found in 29 CFR 1926.62.

Where Lead Can Be Found

Many people associate lead with paint, but it also might be in your drinking water, which is polluted by lead pipes, or in soil from the leaded gasoline that was phased out in the late 80s and early 90s. Although lead in these forms can be dangerous, most exposures to lead poisoning occur during lead-paint removal.

In the early 1900s, people realized that lead in paint prevented structures such as bridges, ships, lighthouses and other buildings from corroding. The paint usually is taken off through blasting when it begins to flake or chip. Blasting is fast, but it also creates airborne lead particles that can be harmful.

How Lead Enters the Body

Lead can enter the body through ingestion or inhalation. It then is absorbed by the blood stream, which circulates it through the entire body. The body attempts to filter out lead while lead is circulated. Some of the lead is filtered out, but much of it is absorbed by soft tissue such as the kidneys, liver and brain tissue, or hard tissue such as bones and cartilage.

Health Effects

Health effects from lead can vary depending on the length and level of exposure. In an acute exposure, an individual is exposed to a high level of contaminant over a short period of time. Exposures such as this can result in a condition called encephalopathy, which affects the brain and quickly develops into seizures, coma and death from cardio respiratory arrest.

In a chronic exposure, an individual is exposed to low levels of contaminants over a long period of time. This exposure can result in damage to the brain tissue, reproductive system, urinary tract, nervous system and the formation of blood. Some common symptoms of chronic exposure include:

  • loss of appetite
  • dizziness
  • metallic taste in the mouth
  • constipation
  • muscle or joint pain
  • headache
  • pallor
  • hyperactivity
  • numbness
  • insomnia



Lead testing can be done in the following ways:

  1. Determine air concentrations. Follow NIOSH-testing method 7082 or an equivalent with an air-sampling pump and a membrane filter. These can be attached to an employee for personal monitoring or used for area monitoring.
    NOTE: The exposure level to lead in construction and general industry is 50 µg/m3 (microgram per meter cubed) for air concentration.
  2. Determine water concentration. Obtain a water-test kit or submit a sample to a laboratory.
  3. Determine soil concentration. Obtain a soil-test kit or submit a sample to a laboratory.
  4. Determine blood lead level. Determined by blood sample taken by a physician.
    NOTE: The exposure level for lead in blood is 50µg/dl (micrograms per deciliter).
  5. Determine of surface lead level. Can be determined by convenient test kits.
    NOTE: Once the lead level is determined, it should be compared with the recommended level.


Lead Remediation

Lead can be handled in the following ways:

  1. Replacement: Remove the entire piece and replace.
  2. Encapsulation: Cover the lead with another material.
  3. Chemical removal: Remove lead by chemical process
  4. Physical removal: Remove lead by heat gun and manual scraping
  5. Blasting: Remove by water or vacuum
    Note: Before removing lead, consult with state OSHA and EPA regulations. Lead must be disposed of according to state or local ordinances.


Safe Work Practices

When working with lead, you should follow certain practices (29 CFR 1926.62):

  1. Provide exhaust ventilation.
  2. Use only HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Absolute) vacuums for cleanup.
  3. Use a NIOSH-/MSHA-approved respirator. Exposure level should determine the type. See Table 1 below.
  4. Do not eat, drink or smoke in lead-contaminated areas.
  5. Use proper personal protection including protective clothing, shoe covers and gloves.
  6. Wash hands thoroughly before eating.
  7. Shower and change into clean clothes before leaving worksite.
Source: OSHA 29 CFR 1926.62


OSHA guidelines require comprehensive training for everyone who might potentially be exposed to lead. (29 CFR Part 1926).


Lead-warning signs must be posted to warn employees. The signs should state the following: "Warning," "Lead Work Area," "Poison" and "No Smoking or Eating." These signs shall be illuminated and cleaned as necessary to ensure legibility (29 CFR 1926.62 Appendix B, XI).

OSHA has updated the language for workplace signage and labels to incorporate the Globally Harmonized System in substance-specific health standards. The update will take full effect on June 1, 2016. Prior to that date, current language can be used. With the GHS revision, this standard retains the requirements for specific warning language for specific signs; however, OSHA has modified the language to be compatible with GHS and consistent throughout all OSHA standards. The language for signs and labels required after June 1 2016 is:



For more information about GHS, please refer to Quick Tips document #374, Globally Harmonized System.


29 CFR Part 1926, Lead

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
4676 Columbia Pkwy.
Cincinnati, OH 45226

(Rev. 8/2014)

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Please Note:
The content in this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only. This publication is not a substitute for review of the applicable government regulations and standards, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific compliance questions should refer to the cited regulation or consult with an attorney.

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