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Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1998 May;71(3):180-6.

Exposure to lead and other metals in children from Katowice district, Poland.

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Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



To assess the exposure to toxic metals and to evaluate its possible association with essential elements and socioeconomic status in children from the town of Bytom in the Katowice area; this area is one of the most polluted industrialized regions in Poland.


Concentrations of lead, cadmium, mercury, selenium, magnesium, copper, and zinc were determined in whole blood of 211 children aged 9 years. The samples were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Information on socioeconomic factors was collected using questionnaires. Concentrations of trace elements in the blood of 24 Swedish children aged 9-10 years were used for comparisons.


The concentrations of lead detected in the blood of the Polish children ranged from 0.09 to 1.9 mumol/l, with the median value being 0.27 mumol/l. Statistically significant associations were found between lead and such socioeconomic factors as the number of siblings, trips outside the region, maternal smoking, playing outdoors, and apartment standard. The average blood lead level was about 3 times higher in the Polish children than in the Swedish group. The median blood concentration of cadmium found in the Polish children was 3.4 nmol/l (range 1.1-41 nmol/l; almost 3 times higher than that detected in the Swedish children), and that of mercury was 3 nmol/l (range 0.5-11 nmol/l). The median blood levels and ranges of the essential elements were 1.1 (0.7-2.0) mumol/l for selenium, 1.5 (1.2-1.9) mmol/l for magnesium, 17 (13-22) mumol/l for copper, and 78 (54-104) mumol/l for zinc, respectively. The concentrations of selenium and magnesium were significantly lower in the Polish group as compared with the Swedish children.


In all, 7% of the Polish children had blood lead levels exceeding 0.5 mumol/l, the concentration above which negative effects on mental development have been reported. However, the findings indicate a decrease in lead exposure during recent years among the Bytom children.

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