Lead concentrations in tibial and calcaneal bone in relation to the history of lead exposure
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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 with cumB-Pb, did not significantly change the variance in the relation to bone-Pb.
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