OBJECTIVE--To detect, with a computerised postural sway measurement system, any significant deviation of postural sway parameters among lead workers compared with a control group. METHODS--Postural stability was investigated with a computerised postural sway measurement system in 60 workers exposed to lead with a duration of exposure of 84 (range 3-366) months and 60 controls. Sway parameter data were collected with an Advanced Mechanical Technology computerised biomechanics platform system. RESULTS--The mean current blood lead concentration was 36.0 (range 6.4 to 64.5) micrograms/dl for the exposed workers and 6.3 (range 3.1 to 10.9) micrograms/dl for the 14 controls. There was no significant difference between the groups for the postural sway parameters obtained when the eyes were open. Significant differences were found for Xs, Ys (SDs of the coordinates of the centre of pressure); Xm, Ym (mean deviation of the coordinates of the centre of pressure); Rm (average displacement of Xi, Yi, from Xo, Yo); L (length of sway path); Vel (mean velocity of the centre of pressure along its path); Ao (area included within the path of the centre of pressure); Ae (95% confidence elliptical area). The Romberg ratios (the relation between eyes closed and open) for the Vel, L, Ao and Ae of the exposed workers were also significantly different from the controls. CONCLUSION--The study showed that workers exposed to lead had significantly poorer postural stability than the controls. Lead may affect certain parts of the whole sensory neural axis resulting in postural instability when the visual input is cut off. Based on current blood lead concentrations, we were not able to obtain any significant association with the postural sway parameters.
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