Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1985;11 suppl 4:20-25    pdf

Effects of occupational lead exposure.

by Wang YL, Lu PK, Chen ZQ, Liang YX, Lu QM, Pan ZQ, Shao M

Fifty-three workers in a battery factory, 52 solderers in a television factory, and 50 embroidery workers (a reference group) were studied. The average air lead levels of the three workplaces were 0.578 mg/m3, 0.002 mg/m3, and 0.001 mg/m3, respectively. Adverse effects in terms of clinical manifestations and biochemical criteria were evident among the battery factory workers. A significant dose-response relationship existed between the toxic effects and the air lead levels. The solderers showed no apparent abnormalities in comparison with the embroidery workers. The early clinical manifestations were dysfunction of the central nervous system, indigestion, arthralgia, and myalgia in the extremities. A positive association was observed between the prevalence of fatigue, mild abdominal pain, and arthralgia and the blood lead (PbB), urinary lead (PbU), and zinc protoporphyrin (ZPP) levels. The symptomatic threshold values of PbB, PbU, and ZPP were 30 micrograms/dl (1.5 mumol/l), 0.045 mg/l (0.2 mumol/l), and 40 micrograms/dl (0.7 mumol/l), respectively. The PbB, PbU, free erythrocyte protoporphyrin, and ZPP levels and the blood aminolevulinic dehydratase ratio could be used as indicators of lead exposure, although ZPP is preferred for a preventive monitoring program. The motor and sensory conduction velocities of the median nerve were slower in the exposed groups than in the reference group. No effects on behavioral function were observed among the solderers.