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Neurotoxicology. 1998 Dec;19(6):871-7.

Field screening of blood lead levels in remote Andean villages.

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Department of Neurology/Biological Laboratories, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Blood lead (PbB) levels were investigated in chronically lead (Pb) exposed Andean children and adults living in a highly Pb contaminated area of Ecuador where Pb glazing of ceramics is prevalent. A comparative study was made of the PbB levels of Pb-glazing and non-Pb-glazing families living in close proximity, using three PbB analysis techniques. Fifty-one, 50-microl blood samples from children and adults were analyzed in the field by a finger-stick capillary screening technique using the portable ESA LeadCare Blood Lead Testing System (LCS). Venous blood samples of 2-4 ml were collected from the same 51 participants and analyzed in the laboratory by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS). The median PbB levels for the Pb-glazing group as determined by the ICP-MS, AAS and LCS techniques were 37.2 microg/dl (range 11.6-101.0), 32.0 microg/dl (range 8.0-70.0 microg/dl) and 44.0 microg/dl (range 19.0-105.0), respectively. The median PbB levels for the non-Pb-glazing group were 9.2 microg/dl (range 5.0-21.7) with ICP-MS, 9.0 microg/dl (range 4.3-32.0) with AAS, and 11.3 microg/dl (range 7.3-21.1) with LCS. The differences in PbB levels between the Pb glazing and non-Pb glazing groups were statistically significant (p = < .0001) for each PbB analysis method. Correlations between paired samples were: LCS and ICP-MS: r = 0.913, LCS and AAS: r = 0.829, and ICP-MS and AAS: r = 0.905. The results suggest that neighboring Pb glazing and non-Pb glazing families have significantly different PbB levels, and that the portable LCS field technique may be useful for screening and periodic monitoring of relatively low and high PbB levels of persons in remote high altitude Andean areas.

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