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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011 Jul 1;60(25):841-5.

Adult blood lead epidemiology and surveillance--United States, 2008-2009.


Lead exposure can result in acute or chronic adverse effects in multiple organ systems, ranging from subclinical changes in function to symptomatic, life-threatening toxicity. Despite improvements in public health policies and substantial reductions in blood lead levels (BLLs) in adults, lead exposure remains an important health problem worldwide. Approximately 95% of all elevated BLLs reported among adults in the United States are work-related, and recent research has raised concerns regarding the toxicity of BLLs as low as 5 μg/dL. CDC's state-based Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES) program tracks laboratory-reported elevated BLLs. To update rate trends and identify industry subsectors and nonoccupational activities with high lead exposures, CDC collected and analyzed 2008--2009 data from 40 state ABLES programs. The results of that analysis indicated that a decline in the prevalence of elevated BLLs (≥25 μg/dL) was extended, from 14.0 per 100,000 employed adults in 1994 to 6.3 in 2009. Industry subsectors with the highest numbers of lead-exposed workers were battery manufacturing, secondary smelting and refining of nonferrous metals, and painting and paper hanging. The most common nonoccupational exposures to lead were shooting firearms; remodeling, renovating, or painting; retained bullets (gunshot wounds); and lead casting. The findings underscore the need for government agencies, employers, public health professionals, health-care providers, and worker-affiliated organizations to increase interventions to prevent workplace lead exposure, and the importance of conducting lead exposure surveillance to assess the effectiveness of these interventions.

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