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J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2001 Sep-Oct;11(5):407-13.

Contribution of children's activities to lead contamination of food.

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Department of Environmental and Community Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA.


This study evaluates the relationship of children's hygiene habits and food-handling behaviors on lead levels on hands and handled foods for toddlers living in lead-contaminated homes. Forty-eight inner city toddlers previously identified as having elevated blood lead levels participated in three consecutive days of designated food-handling activities. During the visits, duplicate diets were obtained, the child handled a banana, a hot dog, and had his/her hands wiped with a moist towelette. In addition, wipe samples were collected from the kitchen floor, and food items were deposited on and subsequently collected from the kitchen floor. All samples were analyzed for lead. The child's caregiver completed a questionnaire, which addressed the child's hygiene and eating behaviors. It was demonstrated that children's contact with residential dust containing lead can transfer lead to food. Both lead in the home and on the children's hands contribute to the contamination of food, and hence potential dietary exposure. Mean lead in handled bananas was 26 microg/kg and on hot dogs 65 microg/kg, and mean lead values on cheese and apple slices that had been on the floor were 119 and 215 microg/kg. In addition, the child's hygiene habits as reported by the parent indicate that lack of basic hygiene patterns within a high lead environment can contribute to children's dietary exposure to lead.

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