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Psychological performance of workers with blood-lead concentration below the current threshold limit value.


The effects of lead exposure on psychological test performance and subjective feelings of well-being were investigated in 40 exposed workers whose PbB levels had never exceeded 60 micrograms/100 ml and in 20 controls matched for sex, age and educational level. The exposed workers were divided into two groups of 20, with recent PbB levels in the range 45-60 micrograms/100 ml or below 35 micrograms/100 ml. The group of workers with the higher PbB levels showed significantly poorer performance and reported more physical symptoms than the other two groups. These differences were unrelated to sociodemographic and personality characteristics. A principal component analysis suggested that the poorer performance was mainly due to an impairment of general functioning and only to some extent to a deterioration in specific functions, such as verbal reasoning and abstraction. Higher lead concentrations were correlated with poorer performance and a higher number of physical complaints. These results indicate that in exposed workers the threshold for impaired performance lies below the blood-lead concentration of 60 micrograms/100 ml, which is the current threshold limit value (TLV).

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