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QUESTION: My 14 year old daughter is about to learn soldering in class next term. Am I being over cautious? 28/09/09 New South Wales, Australia

My 14 year old daughter is about to learn soldering in class next term. I was questioning the teacher about the safety equipment they use and if they use a non lead based solder. The answer was no masks will be worn and they were using a lead based solder.

Do you know if there is any information I can send the school on reducing the risks or am I being over cautious?

Thanks Mary

ANSWER: Sep 28 2009

Dear Mary,

I have sent you an Info pack in a separate email because it covers all the health reasons why I don't think you are being over-cautious at all. You could really demonstrate to the school how serious you are about keeping your daughter's blood lead level as low as possible by:

  • - organising a blood lead test for her now, before the soldering begins, and
  • - then providing a copy of the result to the school and
  • - advising them that you will asking the doctor to retest her after the soldering begins, and you will be holding them responsible for any rise in her blood lead level.

That's really the only way I know to get the school to take such issues seriously.

Unfortunately we don't have a factsheet on soldering with lead solder specifically, but we do have a couple of factsheets which cover the general principles of heating lead metal, so you can also provide them with the following links to those factsheets:

1. Beware the Lead in Leadlighting;

2.METAL MINIATURES: HOW TO MINIMISE THE RISKS OF LEAD POISONING & CONTAMINATION;

Once they are taking the issue as seriously as it demands, you can refer them to the WorkCover website which clearly states that your original proposal about using only non-leaded solder, is the safest practice, but if they can't manage that, then they should choose alternatives from the:

3. MANUAL HANDLING: HIERARCHY OF CONTROLS

  1. substitute the hazard with another of lower risk.
  2. isolate the hazard from the person put at risk.
  3. minimise the risk by engineering means.
  4. minimise the risk by administrative means.
  5. provide PPE (personal protective equipment)

Source: http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/formspublications/publications/Documents/
hierarchy_of_controls_5620.pdf

These factsheets are also attached for your convenience.

I'd be very keen to hear whether you are successful in getting the school to be lead-safe. The damage that lead does to brain-development and learning behaviour doesn't stop at the age of 7, it just lessens, so if schools can't be convinced to protect children's brains and learning ability, then heaven help us eh?

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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