Preventing Lead Exposure during Metal Recycling

New York State Department of Health conducted a Metal Recycling Industry Project (MRIP) that collected information on metal recycling operations and processes from 101 metal recyclers throughout New York State. This project had two components: a mail survey and on-site industrial hygiene evaluations. MRIP assessed the worker lead exposures associated with routine metal recycling tasks, such as sorting, shearing, and torch cutting a variety of materials through personal air monitoring, surface contamination evaluation and monitoring workers' blood lead levels (BLL). Findings from this project include:

  • Significant lead exposure occurred when torch cutting not only painted metals, but also unpainted metals and new steel;
  • Lead contamination was found in bathrooms and lunchrooms, and on workers' hands prior to eating;
  • Metal recycling companies did not recognize potential sources of lead exposure (such as new steel) and underestimated the degree of exposure; and
  • Metal recycling companies that we visited made substantial improvements to their lead protection programs after receiving information and technical guidance.

Fact Sheet


Related Links

  • Heavy Metals Registry

    The Heavy Metals Registry receives reports of all blood lead tests performed on New York State residents, along with reportable levels of mercury, arsenic and cadmium.

  • Occupational Health Clinic Network

    The NYS Occupational Health Clinic Network includes seven regionally based Clinics along with an agricultural medicine clinic. The Clinics are mandated to: provide objective diagnosis of suspected work-related medical problems; conduct medical screenings for groups of workers who are at increased risk of occupational illness; make referrals for treatment to other medical specialists.

  • Industrial Hygiene Services

    NYSDOH Industrial hygiene staff provide technical assistance and expertise to individual companies for controlling workplace hazards.

  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

    Part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NIOSH conducts research on workplace hazards, develops guidance materials, and certifies respirators.

  • US Department of Labor - Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

    Federal agency that enforces health and safety regulations in private sector worksites in NYS.

  • US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

    Federal agency has information on solid waste and recycling.

  • Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc.

    The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) is a national organization that represents more than 1,200 companies that process, broker, and consume scrap commodities, including metals, paper, plastics, glass, rubber, electronics, and textiles.