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Original article
Effect of occupational exposure to lead on new risk factors for cardiovascular diseases
  1. Adam Prokopowicz1,
  2. Andrzej Sobczak1,2,
  3. Magdalena Szuła-Chraplewska1,
  4. Marzena Zaciera1,
  5. Jolanta Kurek1,
  6. Izabela Szołtysek-Bołdys2
  1. 1Department of Chemical Hazards and Genetic Toxicology, Institute of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, Sosnowiec, Poland
  2. 2Department of General and Inorganic Chemistry, School of Pharmacy with the Division of Laboratory Medicine in Sosnowiec, Medical University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Adam Prokopowicz, Department of Chemical Hazards and Genetic Toxicology, Institute of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, 41-200 Sosnowiec, Kościelna 13, Poland; a.prokopowicz{at}


Objective The cardiovascular effects of lead are caused primarily through an effect on blood pressure but are not just limited to an increased risk of hypertension. The aim of our study was to determine to what extent chronic exposure to lead affects new risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) development, such as biomarkers of inflammation (C reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen) and biomarkers of endothelial dysfunction (homocysteine, asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) and L-homoarginine).

Methods A cross-sectional study was performed on a sample of 231 male volunteers, aged 20–60 years, working for at least 2 years in jobs with exposure to lead during the mining and processing of lead–zinc ores. The association between lead in blood and CVD biomarkers was evaluated using multiple linear regression, and the effects of exposure level were observed in workers divided into subgroups according to their blood lead concentration: <250, 250–400 and >400 µg/L.

Results Lead in the blood correlated with new risk factors for CVD except for ADMA. Multiple regression analysis revealed that predictive properties for lead in the blood increased for particular biomarkers in the following order: L-homoarginine, fibrinogen, CRP and homocysteine. Among the specified groups, significant differences were observed only between the groups with the most and least exposure to lead, which differed in concentrations by 54.3% for CRP, 19.3% for fibrinogen, 10.6% for homocysteine and −25.5% for L-homoarginine.

Conclusions These findings support the hypothesis that occupational exposure to lead can promote atherosclerosis, particularly in highly exposed individuals.

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  • Contributors AP and AS participated in the design of the study, acquisition of data, analysis and interpretation of data and preparation of the manuscript. MS-C, MZ and JK participated in the acquisition and analysis of data and performed chromatographic and spectrometric studies. IS-B participated in the acquisition of data and analysis and interpretation of the results.

  • Funding This study was supported by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education project number N N404 211837.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Bioethics Committee of the Institute of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health in Sosnowiec.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.