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Q.I do a lot of renovation work in old homes, and the work includes a lot of demolition. I am very concerned about health hazards from lead-based paint and asbestos. I make it a practice of wearing the best respirator I can find. Unfortunately, every type of eye goggles I have tried fogs up when used with a respirator, to the point where I can’t see what I’m doing. Once the goggles fog up, I end up taking them off. My question is, can you get lead or asbestos poisoning through your eyes?

A.Karen Garbarino, Children’s Environmental Health Chief at the Vermont Dept. of Health, responds: Inorganic lead, the kind found in old paint, is not absorbed through the skin or mucous membranes. Asbestos exposure occurs through inhalation. While wearing proper eye protection is a good idea to prevent injury to the eyes, it will not have any effect on reducing potential lead or asbestos exposure.

When performing renovation work in older homes, the risk of exposure to lead is high. Many homes built before 1978, and almost all homes built before 1940, contain lead paint. When this paint is disturbed during renovation projects, lead dust can be created and inhaled by workers. This lead-contaminated dust can also be ingested later by young children if the work area is not thoroughly cleaned after the work is complete. It is critical that safe work practices and proper equipment be used while working, and that a thorough cleanup be performed afterward to reduce the likelihood of lead exposure.

If the work is performed by a company with employees (rather than by a sole proprietor), the OSHA Lead in Construction standard applies. Contact your local OSHA office for more information on this standard.

When handling materials with friable asbestos, proper respiratory protection is essential. Asbestos fibers that are inhaled into the lungs can increase the risk of certain types of lung cancer.