Research conducted in recent years has increased public health concern about the toxicity of lead at low dose and has supported a reappraisal of the levels of lead exposure that may be safely tolerated in the workplace. In this article, which appears as part of a mini-monograph on adult lead exposure, we summarize a body of published literature that establishes the potential for hypertension, effects on renal function, cognitive dysfunction, and adverse female reproductive outcome in adults with whole-blood lead concentrations < 40 μg/dL. Based on this literature, and our collective experience in evaluating lead-exposed adults, we recommend that individuals be removed from occupational lead exposure if a single blood lead concentration exceeds 30 μg/dL or if two successive blood lead concentrations measured over a 4-week interval are ≥ 20 μg/dL. Removal of individuals from lead exposure should be considered to avoid long-term risk to health if exposure control measures over an extended period do not decrease blood lead concentrations to < 10 μg/dL or if selected medical conditions exist that would increase the risk of continued exposure. Recommended medical surveillance for all lead-exposed workers should include quarterly blood lead measurements for individuals with blood lead concentrations between 10 and 19 μg/dL, and semiannual blood lead measurements when sustained blood lead concentrations are < 10 μg/dL. It is advisable for pregnant women to avoid occupational or avocational lead exposure that would result in blood lead concentrations > 5 μg/dL. Chelation may have an adjunctive role in the medical management of highly exposed adults with symptomatic lead intoxication but is not recommended for asymptomatic individuals with low blood lead concentrations.
- Adult lead exposure
- Blood lead
- Medical management
- Medical surveillance
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis