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Has lead got your blood pressure up?

Has lead got your blood pressure up?

Exposure to lead can cause a range of problems -- from miscarriages and development retardation to hearing loss and impaired vitamin D metabolism. The June issue of the bimonthly ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVES focuses on one of the more recent additions to the growing list of lead hazards with 31 papers linking lead exposures to elevated blood pressure.

Joel Schwartz at the Hazard School of Public Health in Boston examined the relationship between blood pressure and lead based on measurements of each by the Public health Service in its random sampling of U.S. males for the Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey completed in 1980. Schwartz found "a robus relationship between low-level lead exposure and blood pressure" even though the mean blood lead level in this group was 17 micrograms per deciliter ([mu]/dl) -- well below the 25 ]mu]/dl considered excessive for children, the group most vulnerable to lead's toxicity. J. Richard Landis at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor--who also analyzed the survey data--says he saw a dose-response relationship in the lead/blood-pressure link down to 5 [mu]/dl.

While a 10 [mu]/dl increase in blood lead levels may correspond to no more than a 2-millimeter mercury increase in average systolic blood pressure, Schwartz notes, this small change could have important consequences. Herman A. Tyroler agrees. An epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Tyroler notes that data from the national Hypertension and Detection Follow-up Program indicate that a 2-millimeter mercury decrease in blood pressure might be associated with as much as an 8 to 10 percent decrease in premature death -- far from a trivial effect.
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Title Annotation:lead exposure problems
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 3, 1988
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