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Am J Ind Med. 1991;20(6):723-35.

Effect of repeated occupational exposure to lead, cessation of exposure, and chelation on levels of lead in bone.

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  • 1Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.


A sensitive K-X-ray fluorescence (K-XRF) instrument was used to measure lead levels in the tibia and patella on a series of twelve subjects who had relatively well-documented histories of lead exposure and blood lead levels. For some subjects, K-XRF measurements were taken at multiple points in time, and before and after chelation with EDTA (ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid). Results confirm that K-XRF measured bone lead levels correspond to cumulative blood lead indices and not to current blood lead levels. Moreover, the data suggest that bone lead levels; (1) correspond to urinary lead following the EDTA mobilization test unless previous chelation has occurred; (2) rise initially after lead exposure ceases and blood lead levels decrease, probably from redistribution from soft tissue, and then fall; and (3) do not decrease with a 3- to 5-day course of therapeutic EDTA chelation. K-XRF levels in the patella were noted to decrease more rapidly than levels in the tibia after cessation of lead exposure, a finding that probably reflects the greater turnover of lead in trabecular bone than in cortical bone.

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