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  QUESTION: Should a 12 week pregnant woman continue hand soldering, 23 Aug 2006, United Kingdom

My friend and i work in an electronics factory both using leaded solder to hand solder most of the day. There are suction pipes, although not very effective, my friend is 12 weeks pregnant and has had no risk assessment at all is she safe to carry on soldering?
ANSWER: 23 Aug 2006

Dear Karen,
It really worries me that you have not mentioned your blood lead level or your pregnant friend's blood lead level. Are these not required before you begin doing electronic soldering with lead solder and then at regular intervals after you start work under your occupational health and safety regulations? But when you say there has been no risk assessment at all, I guess you mean that there has not been any blood lead monitoring either. The first vital piece of information that you need in order to decide whether it is safe to keep hand soldering with inadequate vacuum extraction is a blood lead test. This should be paid for by the company. If you risk losing your job by demanding a blood lead test then that would be the best sign to tell you that you and especially your friend (because of the pregnancy), should stop the work immediately (assuming you will not starve to death if you do so - you don't want to replace one risky situation with a worse one). Once you have a blood lead result, it is possible to determine whether it is safe to continue working there for the remainder of the pregnancy. I will email you our Info Pack 10 - Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) re: Lead and you are welcome to pass it on to the OH&S Officer at your workplace or your doctor.
I will also send you an invitation to join our LeadWorkers egroup so that you can discuss these issues with others who have been through the process. See http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/LeadWorkers
Whether you decide to join the egroup or not, I would be very interested to hear back from you once you have blood lead results in case you need further advice on bringing a blood lead level down as fast as possible.
Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien
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