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J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1989;27(1-2):37-51.

Cross-sectional neurotoxicology study of lead-exposed cohort.

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  • 1Northern California Occupational Health Center, San Francisco General Hospital 94110.


Although the toxic effects of lead have been known for centuries, lead intoxication is still widespread in the United States. Without baseline tests of neuropsychological, neurobehavioral and neurophysiological testing it may be difficult to detect subtle changes in neurological function after lead exposure. This may be further confounded by partial chelation treatment and exposure to neurotoxic mixtures or inability to quantitate alcohol consumption. We undertook a cross-sectional study to address these problems in 24 exposed and 29 control subjects in a plant that manufactured electrical components using fritted leaded glass to coat capacitors and transistors. Potentially exposed workers had blood lead levels ranging between 3 micrograms/dL to 135 micrograms/dL. Industrial hygiene monitoring revealed the plant's air lead levels ranged from 61 micrograms/m3 to 1,700 micrograms/m3 in excess of OSHA permissible exposure limits of 40 micrograms/m3/10 hr day. Using a specially designed battery of neurophysiological, neurobehavioral and neuropsychological screening tests, we demonstrated a significant difference from controls in measures of psychomotor speed, motor strength and verbal memory. Although limited by the cross-sectional design, these findings support the hypothesis that the battery of neurophysiological, neuropsychological and neurobehavioral tests can detect a significant inter-group differences between lead-exposed and control subjects.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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