The latency of the soleus muscle potential, evoked by a tap of the Achilles tendon, was used in the mass assessment of healthy male workers exposed to lead. Three groups were studied: a control, a low exposure, and a high exposure group. Mean blood lead concentrations were 9.3, 19.2, and 53.1 micrograms/100 ml respectively. Latencies were adjusted for age and height and then compared among the three groups. The mean corrected latency of the high exposure group showed a 4% increase compared with the other two groups (p < 0.01). The latencies of the other two groups showed no between group differences. These results were consistent with previous neurophysiological studies done by many researchers on workers exposed to lead. They suggested that nerve conduction velocities decreased from 3 to 13% among workers whose mean blood lead concentrations were more than 30 micrograms/100 ml. The method was simple, time conserving, non-invasive, and non-aversive, and provided a quantitative measure of the nerve conduction velocities of peripheral nerves. Thus it may be useful for early detection of occupationally related impairment of peripheral nerves.
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