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Hypertension. 2003 Mar;41(3):463-8. Epub 2003 Feb 3.

Blood lead level is associated with elevated blood pressure in blacks.

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Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA.


Chronic lead exposure has been associated with elevated blood pressure in epidemiological studies. It is not known whether the previously observed relation between blood lead and hypertension persists after significant reductions have been made in environmental lead contamination. We examined the relation between blood lead levels and blood pressure in a representative sample of 14 952 whites and blacks aged 18 years or older who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Blood lead was measured by atomic absorption spectrophotometry and blood pressure by standard sphygmomanometry. Mean blood lead levels were significantly higher for black men and women (5.4 and 3.4 microg/dL, respectively) compared with white men and women (4.4 and 3.0 microg/dL, respectively). After multivariate adjustment for important covariables, each standard deviation higher blood lead (3.3 microg/dL) was associated with a 0.82 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.19 to 1.44) mm Hg and a 1.55 (95% CI, 0.47 to 2.64) mm Hg higher systolic blood pressure among black men and women, respectively. In contrast, blood lead level was not associated with blood pressure among white men or women. The multivariate-adjusted odds ratio (95% CI) of hypertension associated with a 1-SD higher level of blood lead was 1.08 (95% CI, 0.99 to 1.19) for black men and 1.39 (95% CI, 1.21 to 1.61) for black women. These findings suggest that increased levels of blood lead remain an important environmental risk factor for elevated blood pressure in blacks.

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