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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Children of Construction Workers Are at Risk of Secondhand Lead Exposure

Coming into contact with dangerous heavy metals like lead can, unfortunately, be a part of the daily job for construction workers across the country. Side effects of lead exposure are well documented, and can cause severe health problems like anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage. Very high lead exposure can even cause death.

But construction workers themselves aren’t the only people at risk—so are their loved ones at home, including their children, whose small bodies can be disproportionately affected by lead exposure. In October, a Minnesota manufacturing plant was ordered to shut down after inspectors found that children of its workers had been poisoned by lead in dust carried home from the plant.

“Lead poisoning in children is a public health issue nationwide. Pre- and postnatal lead exposures have been clearly correlated with cognitive and neurodevelopmental health issues,” says Dr. Diana Ceballos, assistant professor of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health. As an industrial hygienist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2010 to 2015, Dr. Ceballos investigated cases of child lead poisonings related to the workplaces of their family members. She found that most interventions to prevent lead exposure occur “in workplaces or happen only after the children are found already poisoned, which is much too late,” she says. “It is clear that prevention interventions are needed to avoid these problems from ever happening in the first place.”

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