Lead-Laced for Life

A Florida lead smelting company exposed hundreds of workers to lead levels hundreds of times above the federal limit—while disabling safety ventilation features, stalling on repairs, and violating regulations on air-lead levels and respirators.

  • Blood lead levels of many employees of Gopher Resource in Tampa shot up within weeks of starting work at the lead smelter.

  • 8 out of 10 workers from 2014-2018 had lead blood levels high enough to put them at risk of increased blood pressure, kidney dysfunction, or cardiovascular disease.

The company punished workers for high levels, driving them to try dangerous procedures to cleanse their blood. 

Gopher also tied bonuses to lead levels—an unethical practice that shifted exposure responsibility to workers, according to bioethicist Arthur Caplan: “It’s ridiculous. It’s absurd. It’s unjust.”


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