Bridge workers suffer from lead poisoning

The Associated Press
Thursday October 12, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO — Alarmed state officials said Tuesday that a large number of bridge workers in the San Francisco Bay area are suffering from lead poisoning after working on earthquake retrofit projects. 

The state blames employers for failing to provide adequate training and protection for at-risk workers. 

Over the past 22 months, nine painters who spend hours grinding away heavily-leaded paint were found to have very high levels of lead in their blood. 

One had the highest blood level of lead ever seen by state officials. 

”It’s striking that we’re seeing this many high cases for bridge workers in our backyard,” said Barbara Materna, chief of the state’s Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. 

Officials said six of the painters were employed by a contractor that has had multiple citations for violating federal health and safety standards. Robison Prezioso of Santa Fe Springs was fined $2,700 by the California Occupational Safety and Health agency for violating lead exposure regulations. 

State regulators pointed out the company followed testing and reporting rules and took appropriate action to treat the poisoned workers in the current cases. What is more disturbing, they say, is that some employers simply neglect to test their employees for lead exposure. 

There are no safeguards to catch such employers.