Children and lead exposure. Preliminary study.

O Mayan, L Marques, R Duarte, A Henriques, A Bastos, D Alves, J Calheiros


Lead poisoning is one of the most common and preventable childhood illness. The authors believe that the present study is the first evaluation of this problem in Portugal. Objectives: a) to characterize blood lead levels in children aged 1 to 6 years living in the Oporto area; b) to identify risk groups and develop screening strategies. Material and methods: The authors studied an opportunistic sample of children that were observed at the Hospital Maria Pia and the Instituto Nacional de Saúde Dr. Ricardo Jorge (Porto) to whom blood testing was requested. All children with neurological or digestive symptoms were excluded (October-December 1991; n = 113). Results: One child had a blood lead level of 46.6 micrograms/dl (class-IV, CDC); 32% (n = 36) were between 20 e 44 micrograms/dl (class-III), while only four children (3.2%) presented values < = 9 micrograms/dl (class-I). Class II included the remainder (n = 73). The results clearly point out that lead poisoning is a real problem among Portuguese children, since the proportion of children not considered to be lead-poisoned is very small. Children in the other classes are at risk of developing acute and chronic toxicity.

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