Lead intoxication is a classical environmental hazard that can cause encephalopathy. During recent years several studies have suggested poor performances in psychological tests and increased numbers of subjective symptoms among workers with comparatively low blood lead concentrations. Forty-nine long-term lead-exposed male workers with time-weighted average blood lead concentrations between 1.3 and 3.3 mumol/l calculated from at least seven years' results have been compared with a referent group of 27 male industrial workers with normal blood lead concentrations and comparable intellectual backgrounds. Several indices of exposure were used. Both groups were examined with neuropsychological tests and a questionnaire covering neuropsychiatric symptoms. The exposed group performed less well in 11 of 14 non-verbal tests, and there were significant differences in tests of memory and reaction time. A non-linear dose-effect trend was indicated. The results are in accordance with those found in similar studies, and it is concluded that the blood lead concentration should be below 2.5 mumol/l to avoid the effects shown in this study.
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