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Arch Environ Health. 1990 Nov-Dec;45(6):335-41.

X-ray fluorescence measurements of lead burden in subjects with low-level community lead exposure.

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  • 1Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.


A k-x-ray fluorescence (K-XRF) instrument that can measure in vivo bone lead at low levels was used on a population of 34 adults with no known history of excessive lead exposure. A questionnaire that gathered information relevant to occupational and environmental lead exposure was administered prior to the measurement. A 30-min measurement that produced an average estimated uncertainty of 6 mcg lead/g bone mineral was taken at the mid-tibial diaphysis for each subject. Eighteen subjects had bone lead levels below the measurement uncertainty. The remainder had bone lead levels ranging up to 21 mcg lead/g bone mineral. Bone lead levels were greater among older subjects. Among young adult subjects, bone lead levels greater than the measurement uncertainty were confined entirely to subjects who had grown up in housing that was estimated to have been build prior to 1955. Such a childhood environment is at high risk of fostering exposure to biologically absorbable lead through ingestion of lead paint-contaminated dust and lead pipe-contaminated water. We conclude that the K-XRF technique has the potential to distinguish between low levels of lead burden in epidemiologic studies.

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