Early childhood lead exposure is not reflected in adult bone lead: Results of a sub-cohort of African American women in the Cincinnati lead study Journal Articles uri icon

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  • INTRODUCTION: Pb in bone may serve as a biomarker for cumulative Pb dose over decades. We hypothesized that adult female bone Pb concentrations (BoPb) would be significantly associated with average childhood blood Pb levels (BlPb) in a birth cohort exposed to relatively high levels of Pb from Pb paint residues. METHODS: 94 African American women with a mean age of 32.7 years were recruited from the Cincinnati Lead Study (CLS) cohort. Subjects were born to women residing where there had been a high incidence of childhood Pb poisoning. Biomarkers of Pb exposure were serial BlPb concentrations spanning the prenatal period to approximately 6.5 years of age. BoPb was assessed in the tibia using the McMaster 109Cd K-XRF fourth generation system. Covariates included nutritional variables related to bone health. RESULTS: BlPb concentrations began to rise around 6 months of age and declined at later ages. Study participants were obese with a mean Body Mass Index of 34.4 and suboptimal vitamin D status as indicated by a mean 25-OH-D of 18.5 ng/ml. Average tibia Pb was -2.0 ± 8.6 μgPb/g bone mineral. In multiple linear regression, there was no significant association between BoPb at approximately age 30 and childhood cumulative BlPb(CumBlPb). DISCUSSION: Collectively, BoPb of this group of subjects was not detectable. We suggest that the reason these subjects' BoPb did not reflect their early exposure was that a significantly smaller proportion of Pb body burden resides in bone in young children. As the child grows what Pb there was in bone is diluted and any remaining signal is weak. It has been claimed that BoPb in older children, adolescents, and adults can recapitulate historical exposure to Pb during earlier development; however, in some populations, BoPb at later ages may not be an adequate biomarker to capture childhood exposure to Pb.


  • Chettle, David
  • Dietrich, Kim N
  • Bhattacharya, Amit
  • Kalkwarf, Heidi J
  • Altmann, Lorenna
  • Wei, Chi
  • Cox, Cyndy
  • Ying, Jun

publication date

  • August 2023