Federal authorities are investigating a Georgia-based lead battery manufacturer after a woman complained that her husband is being exposed to dangerously high lead levels on the job.
Lakecia Demmons told Augusta, Georgia’s WRDW Channel 12 that blood tests showed her husband Timothy Demmons has levels of lead in his system that are considered toxic by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Mrs. Demmons told Channel 12’s I-Team that her husband works at the U.S. Battery plant in Augusta, where he routinely lifts and stacks pieces of lead on his work release from prison.
OSHA confirms it is investigating U.S. Battery to see if it is violating federal health and safety standards in response to Mrs. Demmons’ complaint. The agency requires any worker with a blood lead level of 60 or higher to be removed from all lead exposure until the blood lead drops to a safe level.
Blood lead levels greater than 0.6 parts per million (60 micrograms per decaliter) are diagnostic for lead toxicosis in adults. A reading of 60 is what Mrs. Demmons said her husband’s blood lead level tests showed.
Abdominal pain, fatigue, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, pain or tingling sensation in hands and feet, irritability, moodiness, depression, forgetfulness, and depression are some of the most common symptoms of lead poisoning. The consequences for babies and children can be even more severe because lead can impair a child’s developing brain, leading to lifelong learning disorders, emotional problems, and other disorders.
That’s something Mrs. Demmons worries about – secondhand exposures to lead in the home affecting her children. She told Channel 12’s I-Team that Mr. Demmons sometimes goes home on a pass. If he has lead on his clothes or body, it could have adverse effects on his family.
Channel 12 notes that OSHA requires employers to give workers who handle lead protective equipment because lead exposures not only make workers sick, but “contaminated work clothing or equipment could expose your family.”
Four years ago, OSHA cited U.S. Battery more than $20,000 for not complying with lead standards and putting workers at risk of toxic lead exposure. There are also records of OSHA citing U.S. Battery for lead-exposure violations in 2006, with proposed penalties then of more than $50,000.
Mrs. Demmons said that she is worried about her husband’s health, especially because he was transferred back to prison without treatment.
“He deserves to be treated … he deserves to get well like anybody else that would get contaminated with lead,” she told Channel 12. Mrs. Demmons said she is trying to get his lead test results to the prison so he can receive treatment there. “To know that you love somebody so much and you can’t help them.”