November 2nd was not just another workday for dealers at 21 casinos and card rooms throughout California. It was also the first day that the gaming chips they handle for hours on end contained virtually no lead.
A new agreement among the advocacy group, Center for Environmental Health (CEH), poker chip manufacturer Gaming Partners International Corporation (GPI), and gaming operators in the state means chips supplied by GPI now contain no more than 50 parts per million (ppm) of lead. A report prepared by Caroline Cox, research director for CEH, says that, previously, “GPI used formulas for the ingredients in chips that contained as much as 470,000 ppm lead.”
Concern over the issue of lead in chips — and whether or not it poses a danger to workers — doubled up last year when a Phoenix television station ran a news story that reverberated on casino floors and in boardrooms across the United States.
“Over and over and over again — 200 times — we tested Paulson chips [made by GPI] for surface lead. And every time, they tested positive,” the news report charged. “Over half maxed out the swab’s detection limit at 10 per cent lead,” it added.
Marc Schwartz, a consultant for GPI, acknowledges that the GPI chips contained lead, but maintains that because it was inert, it could not be released. “Lead cannot be absorbed through the skin. It must be ingested or [taken up] through inhalation,” Schwartz says.
“GPI conducted extensive testing. They could not replicate any kind of leaking. It did not pose any risk,” he says.
On this side of the border, the chip-lead issue has not caused bells to sound among casino workers. It has not been raised in contract negotiations for workers at the Palace Casino in Edmonton, says Christine McMeckan, a representative for Local 401 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada.
Information from Health Canada cautions that lead can accumulate in the body and remain there for months, even years. Accumulations have been linked to “adverse” neuro-behavioural and cognitive changes in fetuses, infants and children.
The American Gaming Association (AGA), an industry organization based in Washington, D. C., not only worked with GPI but also conducted two studies of its own that modeled how chips are used in casino environments. “Our members concluded if there was a risk, it was primarily with dealers and primarily with a subset of dealers — women who were pregnant,” says Judy Patterson, AGA’s senior vice-president and executive director.
In response, says Patterson, casino members have adopted hand-sanitizing measures to reduce the potential risk to pregnant women who handle chips and then touch their mouths.
Potential exposures are likely to decline as older chips, which have the highest lead content, are replaced by newer versions.
Don Pister, a spokesperson for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation in Toronto, says the use of GPI chips at its 10 casinos doesn’t pose health risks. “We are satisfied that the handling of chips would not expose players or dealers to levels of lead that would exceed the safe occupational limits,” Pister states.
By: Donalee Moulton
Lead is deemed to be a designated substance in Ontario. (and I hope the rest of the world) and is listed under the Ontario Regulation 843, Designated Substance — Lead.
The OHSA has placed most of its knowledge to deal with lead in this one particular regulation. In it, information concerning employers responsibilities on dealing with LEAD and the joint health and safety committee’s extra special relationship with any designated substance they may find in the workplace.
Did you know, in Ontario, that a JHSC is a must when any designated substance is found in the workplace, regardless of the number of employees the company may have?
Section 9 of the ACT, subsection 2(c) states;
“A joint health and safety committee is required at a workplace, other than a construction project where fewer than twenty workers are regularly employed, with respect to which a regulation concerning designated substances applies.”
In Ontario, the joint health and safety committee(s) for the government of Ontario casinos need to ensure that the chips purchased are well eith hazard-free or at least within the guidelines for lead exposure as described in regulation 843.
Did you know?
An employer, as well as the JHSC need to know the following;
Regulation 843, section 4, subsection 2(a,b,c)
“The employer shall ensure that the maximum concentration of exposure to airborne tetraethyl lead shall not exceed .30 milligrams per cubic metre of air and the exposure of a worker to such maximum concentration.”
a) Shall not exceed fifteen minutes at any one time
b) Shall not occur more than 4 times in a work day; and
c) Shall not occur until at least 60 minutes have elapsed from the time of the last previous exposure to such concentration.
As you can see, dealing with lead can be a complicated matter. Please notify your supervisor/employer as well as your JHSC and let them know of your concerns concerning any designated substance.
Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer