Lead Contamination around Secondary Smelters: Estimation of Dispersal and Accumulation by Humans

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Science  20 Dec 1974:
Vol. 186, Issue 4169, pp. 1120-1123
DOI: 10.1126/science.186.4169.1120


A high rate of lead fallout around two secondary lead smelters originated mainly from episodal large-particulate emissions from low-level fugitive sources rather than from stack fumes. The lead content of dustfall, and consequently of soil, vegetation, and outdoor dust, decreased exponentially with distance from the two smelters. Between 13 and 30 percent of the children living in the contaminated areas had absorbed excessive amounts of lead (more than 40 micrograms per 100 milliliters of blood and more than 100 micrograms per gram of hair) as compared with less than 1 percent in a control group. A relationship between blood and hair was established which indicated that the absorption was fairly constant for most children examined. It seemned that the ingestion of contaminated dirt and dusts rather than "paint pica" was the major route of lead intake. Metabolic changes were found in most of 21 children selected from those with excessive lead absorption; 10 to 15 percent of this group showed subtle neurological dysfunctions and minor psychomotor abnormalities.