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J Blood Med. 2010;1:71-8. doi: 10.2147/JBM.S7765. Epub 2010 Jun 3.

Blood lead in the 21st Century: The sub-microgram challenge.

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  • 1School of Nursing, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX, USA;


In the US the dominant sources of lead through much of the 20th Century (eg, vehicular emissions, plumbing, household paint) have been significantly diminished. The reductions in adult and pediatric average blood lead levels in the US have been extraordinary. Progress continues: the US Environmental Protection Agency recently developed a new air standard for lead. In the 21st Century, the average blood lead level in a society may be seen as a marker of the status of their public's health. However, the threat of lead exposure remains a significant public health problem among subpopulation groups in the US and in many less developed countries. This paper examines some of the specific issues involved in the reduction of blood lead in a post-industrial era. These involve the control of the remaining exogenous primary sources, both general (eg, industrial emissions) and specific (eg, at-risk occupations), exogenous secondary sources (eg, contaminated urban soils, legacy lead-based paints), an endogenous source (ie, cumulative body lead burden) and emergent sources.


blood lead; environmental contaminants; environmental policy; public health

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