The relation between lead in air (PbA) and lead in blood (PbB), concentrations was investigated among 44 workers in five major operations in a United States high volume, lead acid battery plant. The study covered a 30 month period in which workers received frequent PbA and PbB determinations, workers remained in a single job, and PbA concentrations averaged below the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit of 50 micrograms/m3. In both univariate and multivariable linear regressions, longitudinal analyses averaging PbA concentrations over the 30 month study period appeared superior to cross sectional analyses using only six month PbA averages to model PbB concentrations. The covariate adjusted coefficient (alpha value) for PbA (mu/m3) in models of PbB (micrograms/100 g) was 1.14. This figure is strikingly higher than that reported in previous studies in the lead acid battery industry in all of which PbA concentrations were substantially higher than in the current study. Plausible explanations for the difference in alpha values include non-linearity of the PbA-PbB curve, a higher fraction of large size particulate associated with higher PbA concentrations, survivor bias among workers exposed to higher PbA concentrations, and the cross sectional designs of most previous studies. Despite previously reported problems with the model used by OSHA to predict PbA-PbB relations, the findings of this study are in good agreement with the predictions of that model.
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