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Environ Health Perspect. 1995 Feb;103 Suppl 1:105-10.

Bone lead measured by X-ray fluorescence: epidemiologic methods.

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Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


In vivo X-ray fluorescence (XRF) measurement of bone lead concentration (XRF) has emerged as an important technique for future epidemiological studies of long-term toxicity. Several issues germane to epidemiologic methodology need to be addressed, however. First, sources of variability in measurements of bone lead need to be quantified, including imprecision related to the physical measurement itself and the variability of lead deposition over the two main compartments of bones (cortical vs. trabecular) and within each compartment. Imprecision related to the physical measurement can be estimated for each individual measurement based on the variability of the signal and background. Second, approaches to low-level data need to be debated. We argue for using the minimal detection limit (MDL) to compare instruments and interpret individual measurements; however, with regard to epidemiologic studies, we would abandon the MDL in favor of using all point estimates. In analyses using bone lead as an independent variable, statistical techniques can be used to adjust regression estimates based on estimates of measurement uncertainty and bone lead variability. Third, factors that can be expected to modify the relationship between bone lead and toxicity such as gravida history, endocrinological states, nutrition, and other important influences on bone metabolism, need to be identified and measured in epidemiologic studies. By addressing these issues, investigators will be able to maximize the utility of XRF measurements in environmental epidemiologic studies.

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