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Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Oct;119(10):1513-6. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1003231. Epub 2011 Jul 13.

A geospatial analysis of the effects of aviation gasoline on childhood blood lead levels.

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Children's Environmental Health Initiative, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA.



Aviation gasoline, commonly referred to as avgas, is a leaded fuel used in small aircraft. Recent concern about the effects of lead emissions from planes has motivated the U.S. Environmental Protection to consider regulating leaded avgas.


In this study we investigated the relationship between lead from avgas and blood lead levels in children living in six counties in North Carolina.


We used geographic information systems to approximate areas surrounding airports in which lead from avgas may be present in elevated concentrations in air and may also be deposited to soil. We then used regression analysis to examine the relationship between residential proximity to airports and North Carolina blood lead surveillance data in children 9 months to 7 years of age while controlling for factors including age of housing, socioeconomic characteristics, and seasonality.


Our results suggest that children living within 500 m of an airport at which planes use leaded avgas have higher blood lead levels than other children. This apparent effect of avgas on blood lead levels was evident also among children living within 1,000 m of airports. The estimated effect on blood lead levels exhibited a monotonically decreasing dose-response pattern, with the largest impact on children living within 500 m.


We estimated a significant association between potential exposure to lead emissions from avgas and blood lead levels in children. Although the estimated increase was not especially large, the results of this study are nonetheless directly relevant to the policy debate surrounding the regulation of leaded avgas.

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