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Environ Health Perspect. 1995 Oct;103(10):952-7.

A longitudinal study of chronic lead exposure and physical growth in Boston children.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


We investigated the cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between chronic exposure to lead and physical growth among a cohort of children reassessed 13 years after initial examination. We measured weight, height, and dentin lead levels of 270 children in 1975-78. In 1989-1990 we reexamined 79 of these children for measurement of weight, height, and bone lead levels by means of in vivo K X-ray fluorescence. To avoid potential confounding by race and chelation history, analysis was restricted to white subjects without a history of lead chelation therapy. A total of 236 subjects provided complete information for the study of cross-sectional relationship between dentin lead levels and changes in physical growth: 58 subjects for the study of longitudinal relationship between dentin lead levels and changes in physical growth and 54 subjects for the study of longitudinal relationship between bone lead levels and changes in physical growth. Dentin lead levels averaged 14.9 micrograms/g; tibia and patella lead levels averaged 1.2 and 5.0 micrograms/g, respectively. With control for potential confounders including age, sex, baseline body size, and mother's socioeconomic status, log10 dentin lead level was positively associated with body mass index as of 1975-1978 (beta = 1.02, p = 0.03) and increase in body mass index between 1975-78 and 1989-90 (beta = 2.65, p = 0.03). Bone lead levels were not significantly associated with physical growth. This is the first study relating chronic lead exposure to body mass index. The results suggest that chronic lead exposure in childhood may result in obesity that persists into adulthood.

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