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Am J Ind Med. 2006 Mar;49(3):143-52.

The impact of menopause and lifestyle factors on blood and bone lead levels among female former smelter workers: the Bunker Hill Study.

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Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, Division of Health Studies, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.



The Bunker Hill mine in Idaho operated from 1886 to 1981. In the 60's and 70's it provided approximately 25% of the primary lead in the United States. Women first began working on the production and maintenance lines in 1972. This study examines the impact of menopause and several occupational and lifestyle factors as determinants of blood and bone lead levels among 73 female former smelter workers.


Blood lead levels were analyzed using graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy. The (109)Cd K X-ray fluorescence system was used to measure calcaneus and tibia bone lead content. Information was obtained on reproductive history, alcohol and cigarette consumption, education, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).


Postmenopausal women (n = 47) had significantly (P < 0.002) higher blood lead levels (3.48 microg/dl) than did premenopausal women (n = 26) (2.19 microg/dl). The best predictors of blood lead levels were smoking (>10 or < or =10 cigarettes/day), natural menopause, technical or community college education, manager or technical worker, and past or present use of HRT. The best predictors of calcaneus bone lead levels (P < 0.2) were technical workers, such as miner; natural menopause; and smoking >10 cigarettes/day; level of education; 1-2 pregnancies; and age (>60 years).


Lead exposure results in higher blood lead levels especially during menopause.

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