Cumulative lead dose and cognitive function in adults: A review of studies that measured both blood lead and bone lead

Regina A. Shih, Howard Hu, Marc G. Weisskopf, Brian S. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: We review empirical evidence for the relations of recent and cumulative lead dose with cognitive function in adults. Data Sources: A systematic search of electronic databases resulted in 21 environmental and occupational studies from 1996 to 2006 that examined and compared associations of recent (in blood) and cumulative (in bone) lead doses with neurobehavioral outcomes. Data Extraction: Data were abstracted after consideration of exclusion criteria and quality assessment, and then compiled into summary tables. Conclusions: At exposure levels encountered after environmental exposure, associations with biomarkets of cumulative dose (mainly lead in tibia) were stronger and more consistent than associations with blood lead levels. Similarly, in studies of former workers with past occupational lead exposure, associations were also stronger and more consistent with cumulative dose than with recent dose (in blood). In contrast, studies of currently exposed workers generally found associations that were more apparent with blood lead levels; we speculate that the acute effects of high, recent dose may mask the chronic effects of cumulative dose. There is moderate evidence for an association between psychiatric symptoms and lead dose but only at high levels of current occupational lead exposure or with cumulative dose in environmentally exposed adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-492
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Adults
  • Blood
  • Bone
  • Cognitive function
  • Lead
  • Neurobehavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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