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.


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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, respiratory protection, hazardous chemical program and the PPE and hazard analysis. Other example safety and health programs are available for employers to download and adapt to their specific conditions. 

Training and Outreach Services

Presentations on hazard communication, respiratory protection, health hazards special emphasis program, and personal protective equipment. Other example presentations are available along with pre-recorded webinars which can be accessed at any time. 

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).

Safety and Health Topics

More resources can be found on the safety and health topic pages for personal protective equipment, hazard communication, health hazards special emphasis programs, hierarchy of controls, chemical hazards and toxic substances 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 - Lead Exposure in Construction, 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: lead, hexavalent chromium, isocyanates, beryllium and respirable crystalline silica.
  • OSHA Technical Manual (TED 01-00-015) provides technical information about workplace hazards and controls to OSHA’s Compliance Safety and Health Officers.
  • CFR 119 - Lead Exposure in Construction: Interim Final Rule provides the promulgation of the rule.

Technical Assistance

Inquiries about workplace safety and health requirements can be submitted to Ask OSH through the online form, by email to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov, or by phone at 919-707-7876.