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Environ Health Perspect. 1988 Jun;78:71-6.

Evidence for effects of chronic lead exposure on blood pressure in experimental animals: an overview.

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Office of Health and Environmental Effects, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711.


Information obtained in a number of experimental studies conducted over the last 40 years on the effects of lead on blood pressure is reviewed. Differences in animal species, age at beginning of exposure, level of lead exposure, indices of lead burden, and blood pressure effects of each study are reported. In several of the high-dose experiments, hypertension was observed, but nephrotoxicity of lead may have contributed to its development. Moreover, in other high-dose experiments, no hypertension was observed, and in at least one experiment, the evidence suggested that lead could reduce an elevated blood pressure. In contrast, the lower dose experiments consistently demonstrated a hypertensive effect. Overall, the data suggest a biphasic dose response. Establishment of an appropriate animal model to study blood pressure effects of lead will require careful assessment of dietary interactions with lead, unstressed blood pressure monitoring with standardized techniques, and documentation of biologically effective lead burden. Future research should examine lead exposure at more environmentally appropriate levels in order to determine the validity of associating this pollutant with blood pressure effects in the human population.

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