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The text on this page is taken from an equivalent page of the IEHIAS-project.

Lead is a heavy metal and a widespread environmental pollutant that can cause neurological, haematological and renal effects in exposed populations

Lead as a biomarker

Sample collection and storage


Blood is the best biological matrix to monitor lead exposure


  • Uptake generally through inhalation or ingestion
  • Absorbed lead mainly stored in bones. Lead can cross the placenta and the brain- blood barriers
  • Lead is mainly excreted via urine and bile
  • Elimination follows the kinetics of a three compartment model with half-lives of 35 days (blood), 400 days (soft tissue), and 20 years (bones)

Sampling conditions:

Blood should be collected in containers free of any metal contamination. Samples can be stored at 4°C or frozen

Sample measurement

Analytical aspects:

  • Measured through absorption spectrometry (AAS) or ICP-MS
  • Sensitivity of measures is 0.05-0.1 µg/l

Performance characteristics:

Analytical reproducibility is 1-2%, inter- and intralaboratory variability is 5-10%


Measurement methods are fully validated, intercomparison programs and certified standards and reference materials is available

Confounding factors:

Smoking, alcohol consumption, menopauses and hormone-replacement therapy

Data interpretation

Concentrations reported in literature:

Mean values:

  • adults 30-50 µg/l
  • children 10-30 µg/l

Critical values for children: 100 µg/l

Occupational biological dose limit: 300 µg/l

Dose-response/effect relationships:

Effects Pb in blood (µg/l)
Children Adults
Cognitive or hearing impairment 50-100
Vitamin D3 reduction 100-150
Erythrocyte porphyrin elevation 150-200 200-300
Reduced haemoglobin synthesis 250-300 500
Increased urinary delta-aminolevulinic acid 400 400
Frank anaemia 700 800
Encephalopathy 800-1,000 1,000-1,200

Time trend, geographical variation, susceptibel groups:

In countries where leaded-gasoline has been banned, concentrations of lead in the blood of general population have rapidly decreased to levels that are now about 70-80% lower than those prevailing in the 1970s

See also

[2] [3] [4] [5]

See also

Integrated Environmental Health Impact Assessment System
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