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Occupational lead neurotoxicity: improvement in behavioural effects after reduction of exposure.
  1. E L Baker,
  2. R F White,
  3. L J Pothier,
  4. C S Berkey,
  5. G E Dinse,
  6. P H Travers,
  7. J P Harley,
  8. R G Feldman

    Abstract

    To evaluate critical exposure levels and the reversibility of lead neurotoxicity a group of lead exposed foundry workers and an unexposed reference population were followed up for three years. During this period, tests designed to monitor neurobehavioural function and lead dose were administered. Evaluations of 160 workers during the first year showed dose dependent decrements in mood, visual/motor performance, memory, and verbal concept formation. Subsequently, an improvement in the hygienic conditions at the plant resulted in striking reductions in blood lead concentrations over the following two years. Attendant improvement in indices of tension (20% reduction), anger (18%), depression (26%), fatigue (27%), and confusion (13%) was observed. Performance on neurobehavioural testing generally correlated best with integrated dose estimates derived from blood lead concentrations measured periodically over the study period; zinc protoporphyrin levels were less well correlated with function. This investigation confirms the importance of compliance with workplace standards designed to lower exposures to ensure that individual blood lead concentrations remain below 50 micrograms/dl.

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