Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1998;24(1):38-45    pdf


Lead concentrations in tibial and calcaneal bone in relation to the history of lead exposure

by Bergdahl IA, Strömberg U, Gerhardsson L, Schütz A, Chettle DR, Skerfving S

Objectives This study tested a simple model of the relationship between the lead concentration in bone (bone-Pb), exposure time, and lead in plasma (P-Pb) and whole blood (B-Pb) to make it possible to use bone-Pb as a retrospective exposure index.

Methods Seventy-seven active lead workers and 24 referents were studied. The bone-Pb in tibia (T-Pb) and calcaneus (C-Pb) was measured by in vivo X-ray fluorescence. P-Pb was calculated from B-Pb by use of the nonlinear relationship between these variables. Cumulative B-Pb (cumB-Pb) and P-Pb (cumP-Pb) were calculated to the time of the bone-Pb measurements. In addition, cumP-Pb was adjusted by applying varying rate constants for the transfer of lead from bone to plasma.

Results There were close linear associations between the lead concentrations in tibia (proportion of variance explained, R2=0.78) and calcaneus (R2=0.80), on one hand and the cumB-Pb on the other. The best fit of bone-Pb to the adjusted cumP-Pb (0.79 for T-Pb; 0.82 for C-Pb) was obtained for the terminal phase half-times of 13 and 12 years, respectively.

Conclusions The combined data on bone-Pb and exposure time make it possible to estimate previous mean P-Pb and B-Pb. Such estimates will be valuable in studies of toxic effects on long-term exposed lead workers when data on the intensity of previous exposure are lacking. The use of P-Pb in modeling bone-Pb kinetics is physiologically relevant, but the use of adjusted cumP-Pb, as compared cumB-Pb, did not significantly change the variance in the relation to bone-Pb.