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Lead in human blood and in the environment near a battery factory
  1. W. J. Elwood1,
  2. B. E. Clayton2,
  3. R. A. Cox3,
  4. H. T. Delves2,
  5. E. King4,
  6. D. Malcolm5,
  7. J. M. Ratcliffe6,
  8. J. F. Taylor5
  1. 1 Bolton Area Health Authority (formerly MOH Swinton & Pendlebury MB)
  2. 2 Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street
  3. 3 Cremer and Warner, London (formerly Imperial College)
  4. 4 National Occupational Hygiene Service Ltd, Manchester
  5. 5 Chloride Group Ltd, London
  6. 6 Mathematics Department, Imperial College


    Samples of blood, air, dust, soil, vegetation, and tap water were examined between 1973 and 1975 to determine whether a large battery factory (with a smelter) was contributing to lead in the environment and to lead absorption by the local population. Mean blood lead levels in the children of lead workers were about 6 μg/100 ml higher (P<0·001) than in otherwise comparable children. Capillary blood samples in wives of lead workers were 1·7 μg/100 ml higher (P<0·05) than those of otherwise comparable wives, but venous blood samples from the same subjects showed no significant difference. Lead in dust, soil and vegetation, although variable, decreased in concentration with distance from the factory. This relationship with distance from the factory was not however found in blood lead levels. No consistent effect of distance was found with lead in air, but significantly higher concentrations were recorded at downwind than upwind sites. The blood lead results have been analysed to assess the influence of domestic factors of possible relevance—such as, lead pipes, car ownership, age of house, etc. The presence of a lead-worker in the household appears to outweigh these other factors. The findings are consistent with the work of Burrows (1976) who showed that lead workers take lead home. An interlaboratory comparison on lead in blood was carried out. The two laboratories concerned were found to be equally consistent, but there were differences between them and the design of this comparison did not make it possible to say that the results of either were `absolute' values.

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