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Erythrocyte fluorescence and lead intoxication.
  1. K G Clark

    Abstract

    Blood samples from people exposed to inorganic lead were examined by fluorescence microscopy for excess erythrocyte porphyrin. With continued lead absorption, fluorescent erythrocytes appeared in the circulation of workers handling this metal or its compounds, and they progressively increased in number and brilliance. These changes ensued if the blood lead concentration was maintained above 2-42 mumol/l (50 mug/100 ml), and preceded any material fall in the haemoglobin value. At one factory, 62-5% of 81 symptomless workers showed erythrocyte fluorescence attributable to the toxic effects of lead. Excess fluorocytes were found in blood samples from a child with pica and three of her eight siblings. These four were subsequently shown to have slightly increased blood lead concentrations (2-03 to 2-32 mumol/l). Fluorescence microscopy for excess erythrocyte porphyrin is a sensitive method for the detection of chronic lead intoxication. A relatively slight increase in the blood lead is associated with demonstrabel changes in erythrocyte porphyrin content. The procedure requires little blood, and may be performed upon stored samples collected for lead estimation. The results are not readily influenced by contamination, and provide good confirmatory evidence for the absorption of biochemically active lead.

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