Women in that industry had 244 cases of blood lead levels above 25 milligrams per deciliter per every 100,000 women employed. That compares with 7.1 such cases per 100,000 women in manufacturing jobs, and 0.6 cases per 100,000 women working in all types of jobs.
In addition, the industry that includes battery manufacturing had a rate of 8.4 cases of blood lead levels above 40 milligrams per deciliter per 100,000 women employed in that industry, compared with rates of 0.4 per 100,000 employed in all of manufacturing and 0.04 per 100,000 employed in any job, according to the report.
"These higher rates suggest that despite the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's recent focus on reducing workplace lead exposures among all U.S. workers, the workplace remains a substantial source of exposure, and clinicians should consider work history when determining whether to measure blood lead levels," according to an editorial comment.
"The difference between blood lead levels that are considered elevated in females who are pregnant and those who might become pregnant has substantial public health implications," the editorial notes. "Identifying and counseling females of childbearing age who might become pregnant and expose children to lead in utero might help to prevent neurobehavioral and cognitive deficits."
Lead is a known neurotoxin, uniquely dangerous to the developing brain, Katz said. "Exposure during pregnancy is of special concern. The finding that work in the battery manufacturing industry appears to place women at increased risk of elevated blood level levels sounds an alarm," he said.
"Minimally, it means that women of childbearing age must be informed of this danger before hire. In many cases, however, a dangerous job may be more attractive than no job at all, so leaving avoidance of this threat to the individual woman is rather unfair. Ideally, working conditions will be altered to eliminate this threat at the source," he said.
A third article notes that, in 2004, the number and rate of nonfatal occupational injuries/illnesses across America remained similar to those in 1996, 1998, and 2003. In 2004, there were 3.4 million nonfatal industrial accidents or illnesses.
"The rate of workers treated in an emergency department for nonfatal occupational injuries/illnesses has not declined substantially in the United States in recent years. Younger workers aged less than 25 years continued to experience the highest rates of injuries/illnesses," the report concludes.
For more information on disease from food flavoring, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Richard Kanwal, M.D., M.P.H., medical officer, and Rachael Bailey, D.O., epidemic intelligence service officer; both of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Prevention Research Center Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; April 27, 2007, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report