Millions of U.S. and Canadian Workers May be Exposed to Lead by Using Shop Towels
By Rachel Gross, schwartzmsl.com
A peer-reviewed study conducted by Gradient, a nationally recognized environmental and risk sciences consulting firm, shows that U.S. and Canadian manufacturing workers who use laundered shop towels may be exposed to lead and other metals. The analysis, “Evaluation of Potential Exposure to Metals in Laundered Shop Towels,” was published in the October issue of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment.
Workers cannot see, smell, or feel heavy metal residue on laundered shop towels, so the risk is not apparent to the many workers who use the towels to wipe parts, spills, and their hands.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 12 million Americans, or nine percent of the workforce, are employed directly in manufacturing. In Canada, more than one million people work in manufacturing.
“The study adds to the growing body of data on potential health risks associated with using laundered shop towels in the workplace,” said Barbara Beck, Ph.D., DABT, FATS, and Principal at Gradient. “We continue to find a range of heavy metals on commercially laundered towels. Of particular interest is that exposures to lead may exceed certain health-based limits. Much as bacteria and viruses can spread through touch and be ingested, heavy metals on shop towels may also be transferred through touch to workers’ mouths and be swallowed.” Read More