Accumulated body burden and endogenous release of lead in employees of a lead smelter.
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Bone lead levels for 367 active and 14 retired lead smelter workers were measured in vivo by X-ray fluorescence in May-June 1994. The bone sites of study were the tibia and calcaneus; magnitudes of concentration were used to gauge lead body burden. Whole blood lead readings from the workers generated a cumulative blood lead index (CBLI) that approximated the level of lead exposure over time. Blood lead values for 204 of the 381 workers were gathered from workers returning from a 10-month work interruption that ended in 1991; their blood level values were compared to their tibia and calcaneus lead levels. The resulting relations allowed constraints to be placed on the endogenous release of lead from bone in smelter works. Calcaneus lead levels were found to correlate strongly with those for tibia lead, and in a manner consistent with observations from other lead industry workers. Relations between bone lead concentration and CBLI demonstrated a distinctly nonlinear appearance. When the active population was divided by date of hire, a significant difference in the bone lead-CBLI slope emerged. After a correction to include the component of CBLI existing before the workers' employment at the smelter was made, this difference persisted. This implies that the transfer of lead from blood to bone in the workers has changed over time, possibly as a consequence of varying exposure conditions.
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