NIOSH Finds Overexposures to Lead, Noise at Electronic Scrap Recycling Facility

Published October 8, 2014

NIOSH found that employees at an electronic scrap recycling facility were overexposed to lead, cadmium, and noise during a health hazard evaluation (HHE) of the facility. The agency’s findings are published in an HHE report released last week.

NIOSH responded to a request from a health and safety manager at the facility who was concerned about occupational exposures from recycling electronic scrap. Agency investigators visited the facility five times over the course of a year and collected air samples for metals, dust, and crystalline silica; surface wipe samples for metals; and blood and urine samples for metals. They also evaluated noise, engineering controls, and ergonomics in work areas; conducted medical interviews with employees; and reviewed the facility’s health and safety monitoring plans.

According to the NIOSH report, one employee was overexposed to lead in air, and two had elevated blood lead levels above 10 μg/dL. Two employees were overexposed to cadmium in air; however, silica concentrations in air were found to be well below occupational exposure limits. NIOSH found that employees were overexposed to noise during cathode ray tube buffing and grinding, shredder sorting, forklift driving, and baling. Agency investigators also noted employee exposure to ergonomic risk factors, including extreme working postures, forceful exertions, and repetitive motions.

NIOSH’s report lists several recommendations to improve employees’ health and safety at the facility, including:

  • start a medical monitoring program for all employees exposed to lead
  • start a hearing conservation program and require hearing protection in areas with noise levels at or above 85 decibels
  • require respirator use during cathode ray tube buffing and grinding and shredder operations
  • provide uniforms and a contract laundering service for all employees exposed to lead

View NIOSH’s full report for more information. Other NIOSH HHE reports are available on the agency’s website​.​