Prevalence of excess lead absorption and associated risk factors in children enrolled in a midwestern health maintenance organization

J. D. Nordin, S. J. Rolnick, J. M. Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Objective. To assess the prevalence of lead intoxication in children in a defined low-risk population at the new levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Design. During an 11-month period, whole blood lead tests were performed on 4678 children at routine well-child visits at 9 months and 2 years of age. For the last 8 months of the study, parents were asked to complete a prescreening risk factor questionnaire at these visits. The questionnaire and blood lead results were then matched. Data were collected from October 1, 1991 through August 31, 1992. Setting. The study subjects were all enrolled in Group Health, Inc, a large health maintenance organization. Its 17 staff model clinics serve urban and suburban populations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. More than 95% of the population had coverage based on employment, not Medicaid. Results. Results indicated that 2.5% (n = 119) of the children had BPb levels ≥10 μg/dL. Urban clinics had rates of elevated BPb levels three to eight times those of suburban clinics (P < .00001); but the number of elevated BPb levels at the suburban clinics was greater than expected. BPb levels were significantly higher in summer and fall (P < .00001). The prescreening questionnaire addressed five areas potentially associated with risk according to the literature: housing, siblings with lead poisoning, parental hobbies or work involving lead, proximity to highways, and use of cultural medicines. Positive correlations were found between elevated BPb levels and residences built before 1950 (P < .00001). For children living in housing built before 1950, positive correlations were found between elevated blood lead levels and peeling paint (P < .01) or remodeling (P < .0001). Conclusions. Children who are at low socioeconomic risk but who live in housing built before 1950 are at increased risk for lead poisoning. The risk is greater if the house has peeling paint and especially if there is recent or ongoing renovation. Recommendations based on these results and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are made for screening programs in similar populations, and for the need to increase community awareness concerning this issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-177
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994


  • lead poisoning prevalence
  • risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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