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Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Apr;110 Suppl 2:221-31.

Lead sources, behaviors, and socioeconomic factors in relation to blood lead of native american and white children: a community-based assessment of a former mining area.

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  • 1Masters in Public Health Program, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131, USA.


Lead poisoning prevention requires knowledge of lead sources and of appropriate residential lead standards. Data are severely lacking on lead sources for Native American children, many of whom live in rural areas. Further, the relation of mining waste to blood lead concentrations (BPbs) of rural children is controversial. In collaboration with the eight tribes of northeastern Oklahoma, we assessed lead sources and their effects on BPbs for rural Native American and White children living in a former mining region. Venous blood lead, residential environmental (soil, dust, paint, water), and caregiver interview (e.g., hand-to-mouth behaviors, socioeconomic conditions) data were obtained from a representative sample of 245 children 1-6 years of age. BPbs ranged from 1 to 24 microg/dL. There were no ethnic differences in BPbs (p= 0.48) nor any patterns of excess lead sources for Native American or White children. Multiple linear regression analyses indicated that mean soil lead, mean floor lead loading, mouthing behaviors, caregivers' education, and residence in former mining towns were all strongly associated with BPbs. Logistic regression results showed mean floor dust lead loading greater than or equal to 10.1 microg/ft(2) (odds ratio [OR], 11.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.5-37.3), and yard soil lead >165.3 mg/kg (OR, 4.1; CI, 1.3-12.4) were independently associated with BPbs greater than or equal to 10 microg/dL. We also found strong interactions between soil lead and poverty (p= 0.005), and dust and soil sources (p= 0.02). Our findings indicate that soil and dust lead derived largely from mining waste pose a health hazard to Native American and White children, and that current residential dust lead standards are insufficient to adequately protect children. Moreover, our finding that poor children are especially vulnerable to lead exposures suggests that residential standards should consider interactions among socioeconomic conditions and lead sources if environmental justice is to be achieved.

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