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Occurrence of Lead-Related Symptoms Below the Current Occupational Safety and Health Act Allowable Blood Lead Levels

Rosenman, Kenneth D. MD; Sims, Amy BS; Luo, Zhehui MS; Gardiner, Joseph PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: May 2003 - Volume 45 - Issue 5 - p 546-555
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000063617.37065.4f

To determine the occurrence of symptoms of lead toxicity at levels below the current allowable Occupational Safety and Health Act blood lead level of 50 μg/dL, standardized telephone interviews were conducted of individuals reported to a statewide laboratory-based surveillance system. Four hundred and ninety-seven, or 75%, of the eligible participants were interviewed. Gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and nervous system symptoms increased with increasing blood lead levels. Nervous, gastrointestinal, and musculoskeletal symptoms all began to be increased in individuals with blood leads between 30–39 μg/dL and possibly at levels as low as 25–30 μg/dL for nervous system symptoms. The results of this study of increased symptoms are consistent with and provide added weight to previous results showing subclinical changes in the neurologic and renal systems and sperm counts at blood lead levels currently allowed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

From the Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan (Dr Rosenman, Ms Sims, Ms Luo, Dr Gardiner).

Address correspondence to: Kenneth D. Rosenman, MD, Michigan State University, 117 West Fee Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824-1315; e-mail:

Partial funding for this activity was provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (U60/CCU512145).

©2003The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine