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CWA advocates for better lead protections in telecommunications industry

In July, the Wall Street Journal published an investigation about the existence of lead in the infrastructure of major telecom providers and the risks posed to the workers, the public, and the environment. In response, CWA released a statement explaining that its members and health and safety committees have been working on this issue for many years and that CWA is actively supporting research into the impact of lead on workers, and is advocating for further improvements in protections and practices that effectively prevent lead exposures.

“CWA has been at the forefront of advocating for workplace lead protections in telecommunications for decades, demonstrating a longstanding commitment to the safety and well-being of telecom workers,” said CWA. “CWA’s efforts have resulted in significant progress over the years, but there is still work to be done. CWA intends to hold its represented employers accountable for providing safe working environments.”

CWA understands the importance of research in gaining a comprehensive understanding of the health impacts and illnesses associated with chronic lead exposure. The CWA Occupational Safety and Health Department is expanding its collaborations with researchers to delve into groundbreaking studies about lead depositions in bone in telecommunications workers. This research is crucial in understanding the long-term consequences of chronic lead exposures and the associated health effects. By deepening its knowledge CWA can better safeguard the well-being of workers in the industry and participating members will be empowered to take action to monitor and protect their health.

CWA is also in discussions with several employers on this issue. In July, AT&T, after consultation with union leadership, announced a policy that will allow employees who may have been exposed to lead as part of their work to receive paid time off in order to be tested for lead levels. While this is a voluntary program, CWA strongly encourages members to participate in this testing. CWA worked with the company to ensure that no employee will be penalized in any way as a result of undergoing testing. 

“AT&T’s commitment to addressing our members’ exposure to lead must go beyond point-in-time testing of blood lead levels and incorporate proper follow up including treatment, addressing past exposures and long term effects, and implementing precautions and training to reduce the health impacts of working with lead clad cable,” said CWA.

CWA’s fact sheet on lead exposure can be viewed here


What AT&T and Verizon knew about toxic lead cables (Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2023)

CWA Statement on Lead Exposure in Telecommunications (CWA, July 12, 2023)

CWA Statement on Lead Exposure Testing for Telecommunications Workers (CWA, July 20, 2023)

Preventing Exposures to Lead in Telecommunications: What Every Member Should Know (CWA, Aug. 1, 2023)