OBJECTIVES: To determine the concentrations of blood lead (PbB) in pregnant women in the slums of Lucknow, north India. METHODS: Of the 203 designated municipal slums in Lucknow, 70 were randomly selected for study and a cohort of 500 pregnant women was enrolled. Each participant was interviewed with questions on possible sources of exposure to lead, surrogates of nutritional status were measured, and PbB was measured. RESULTS: The mean PbB was 14.3 micrograms/dl and 19.2% of women had PbB > or = 20 micrograms/dl. PbB was not associated with age, height, weight, gestation, or history of abortions, although higher PbB was associated with higher parity. Women living inner city neighbourhoods near heavy vehicular traffic had PbB 2.2 micrograms/dl higher (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.8 to 3.6) than those living in other neighbourhoods. The PbB was not associated with reported use of piped water or the presence of paint in homes, and increasing PbB was unexpectedly associated with decreasing use of eye cosmetic "surma" and the duration of gestation. CONCLUSIONS: The high PbB found in this population raises concern about fetal development and points to the urgent need to reduce exposure to lead.
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