A survey of middle-aged men in 24 British towns has found pronounced geographical variation in blood lead concentrations. Towns with the highest mean blood lead concentrations have soft water supplies and have the highest water lead concentrations. Individual blood lead can be considerably increased by raised household tap water lead concentrations. Mean blood lead is estimated to be 43% higher for men when the concentration of lead in first-draw domestic tap water is 100 micrograms/l compared with a zero concentration. Individual blood lead is also affected by alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, such that on average these two life-style habits together contribute an estimated 17% to the blood concentration of lead in middle-aged men. Lead in water should be given greater priority in any national campaign to reduce lead exposure.
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