[aprssig] Lead Exposure to hams (soldering)

Robert Bruninga bruninga at usna.edu
Sun Jun 23 09:49:24 CDT 2013

If you wonder about your lead exposure as a ham(soldering), this might
give a data point.

Having heard all the hysteria over lead exposure, I figured I'd be the
poster--fud example of a worst case scenario.

For 57 years I have been soldering, holding the solder in my teeth,
soldering while eating sandwiches and hand snacks, not washing my
hands ever after soldering, blobs of solder everywhere in the shack.
Then there is all the plumbing work I do in my own house, parents
house and a rental.  Not to mention drinking for 65 years from lead
soldered copper pipes.  Then there is  the melting lead on the kitchen
stove in pots for a variety of plumbing and other projects, handling
lead weights fishing, filing lead into dust, milling and shaping and
sawing lead to make custom shapes for ballast.  Plus collecting lead
weights around gas stations as a kid into big collections.   Even blow
torching circuit boards to collect the gold (which also dribbles the
lead all over the place (no, I'm not that crazy but I did spend a day
doing it about 30 years ago)....

Include 20 years in the Navy of scraping and painting lead based paint
on ships (never ending) and working in shipyards with sandblasted
clouds of paint dust.  Not to mention living in pre-1958 houses and
housing all my life.  Oh, and re-sanding, scraping and repainting the
80 year old walls in ours and a rental house we have every few years,
never using a respirator or any protection device.

THen about 15 years ago?  all the hysteria, over lead. I was not
allowed to continue to solder at work until I went to a soldering
school to be taught all the lead problems(which I still stupidly
ignore).   Then Housing:  Now we have to pay $500 between every tenant
in the rental house for a lead inspection.  And it is tough to pass.
If someone simply opens a window once, after I have cleaned for the
inspection, the house will fail, because they can detect the invisible
dust caused by the wood sash rubbing against the old paint just once.
Numerous times we have had to get a retest. ANd of course in all the
scraping, cleaning and re-painting, I am surrounded with clouds of
lead dust.

Anyway, bottom line, having hit my 65th birthday it was time for a
physical.  For grins, I asked them to check my lead levels.
Amazingly, I had a level of 4 and the national mean is only 3, and
levels under 10 (for adults) are ignored.  Levels as high as 80
constitute severe lead poisoning with noticeable problems.

Do not take this in anyway to diminish concerns over the handling of
lead.  What we know today and the precautions we take make sense and
are prudent (Though bureaucrats often ignore common sense about
degrees of exposure, and treat everything as if was a killer).  But at
least, even all the worst lead habits of 57 years have not seemed to
have been a significant problem for me, and so if you wondered about
your lead exposure,  you probably should not be worried if you had a
similar lifestyle as mine

Oh, the minimum they can detect is 1.  And even levels up to 6 they
worry about in kids.  So again, dont let kids play with lead or eat
paint chips and you'll probably be OK.

Just thought some of you might be interested in this data point using
something as common to a ham as solder!


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