DALLAS--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--RSR Corporation, a secondary lead smelting company whose subsidiaries operate lead recycling facilities in California, Indiana and New York, was featured in Scientific American for its industry-leading efforts to lower employee blood lead levels and advocate for safer and up-to-date regulations to protect workers in the secondary lead industry.
“Our employees and the communities that surround our facilities depend on our commitment to safety and our investment in emissions control technologies. We expect our industry to follow our example and make the American smelting industry second-to-none for safety and sustainability.”
The article, “Outdated Lead Exposure Regulations Threaten Thousands of American Workers,” is the second of a two-part series by Ingfei Chen examining the persistent risks of lead exposure to American adults. Although the removal of lead from gasoline, paint and other items is considered a great public health achievement, federal regulations governing workers’ lead exposure have not been updated in 35 years—a fact one public health expert deemed “outrageous.” As an industry leader in efforts to reduce lead exposure, RSR has called on federal and state occupational safety and health agencies to update the antiquated standards for the lead industry.
“RSR has invested significant time and capital to install advanced pollution control technology and implement strict occupational safety and health protocols at its subsidiaries’ facilities to protect our workers,” said Robert Finn, RSR’s President and CEO. “Some in our industry see us as mavericks for doing this. I see it as doing the right thing for our employees and the environment.”
Scientific American notes that new studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have found that even small amounts of lead can damage the heart, brain and kidneys of adults. At the same time, OSHA has failed to update its regulations to safeguard workers against cumulative exposure to lead.
According to Scientific American, proposed regulations in states like California to mandate more extensive blood testing for employees and reduce the amount of lead in the air at workplaces, have run into opposition by leaders in the lead manufacturing industry. Battery Council International (BCI), the trade association representing the battery recycling industry, has been reluctant to accept tougher regulations on emissions and workplace safety citing cost constraints and limits on technology. They also contend that tougher regulations could force lead-related industries to relocate outside of the country.
In stark contrast, RSR argues that the immediate cost of stronger pollution and worker safety regulations cannot be weighed against the human cost of exposing workers to dangerous emissions that can be easily controlled using advanced technologies, procedures and protocols.
Scientific American notes that RSR has installed exhaust ventilation hoods above identified sources of lead dust and requires employees to receive extensive training on protective hygiene routines, such as properly using locker rooms to keep their street clothes away from lead-tainted work uniforms As a result, Chen reports that the average blood lead level for employees at RSR’s Quemetco battery recycler in City of Industry, California December 2012 was 9.2 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL). By way of comparison, current federal workplace regulations allow workers to have blood lead levels as high as 40 µg/dL before employers must take action to reduce the levels.
“We have a moral obligation to recycle spent batteries under the most effective and strict regulatory environment possible,” Finn added. “Our employees and the communities that surround our facilities depend on our commitment to safety and our investment in emissions control technologies. We expect our industry to follow our example and make the American smelting industry second-to-none for safety and sustainability.”