Lead, Inorganic

Lead is one of the oldest elements known to man and is characterized as a soft, malleable blue gray metal that has a relatively low melting point. Lead is used in the manufacture of items such as, but not limited to, ammunition, surface coatings, lead acid batteries, and solder.


Tab/Accordion Items

What are the hazards associated with exposure to lead?

Exposure to lead can occur by inhalation of particulates (dust and fumes) or by ingestion of contaminated food and drink due to poor housekeeping and handwashing practices. Lead is a systemic poison that mainly affects the nervous system, but can also affect the reproductive system, kidneys and the hematopoietic (blood forming) system. In addition, lead that cannot be readily excreted from the body is stored in the bone marrow.

Is there a special emphasis program associated with this topic?

Occupational exposure to lead falls within the OSH Division health hazards special emphasis program.

What can I do to protect myself?

Adequate ventilation, preferably local exhaust ventilation, should be used when heating lead or lead-containing materials or when otherwise removing lead-containing materials by mechanical means.

Proper handwashing with soap and running water should be performed after working with lead-containing materials and before consumption of food and drink. 

Employers are required to provide workers engaged in the use of lead or removal of lead containing coatings or any other lead materials with the appropriate type of respirator until an exposure assessment determines that exposure levels are below the permissible exposure limit.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Safety and Health Programs

Example programs that are applicable to occupational exposure to lead and which should be customized to fit individual workplaces include hazard communication program, respiratory protection programhazardous chemicals and the PPE hazard assessment.

Training and Outreach Services

The presentations on hazard communication, respiratory protection, and personal protective equipment can be modified to aid the employer in providing the required training.

In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. 

Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).

A-Z Safety and Health Topics

More resources can be found on the A-Z topics pages for personal protective equipment, hazard communication, silica and respiratory protection

Consultation Services

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.

Which standards apply?

OSH had adopted the following standards related to lead exposures in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 

General Industry

Other standards that apply, or may apply, to occupational exposure to lead in general industry:


Other standards that apply, or may apply, to occupational exposure to lead in construction:

Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.

Where can I learn more?

Industry Guides

Compliance Documents

  • Compliance Directive: CPL 02-02-058 establishes enforcement policy and provides an explanation of the lead in construction standard to ensure uniform enforcement.

  • Operational Procedure Notice: OPN 135, Health Hazards Special Emphasis Program, establishes enforcement guidance for inspections of work places where occupational exposure to the following specific air contaminants is, or may be, present: asbestos, lead, hexavalent chromium, isocyanates and respirable crystalline silica.

Technical Assistance

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-707-7876.