Objective: To determine whether longterm lead accumulation is associated with hyperuricemia and gouty arthritis among middle aged and elderly men.
Methods: In a retrospective cohort study, 777 male participants were evaluated between August 1991 and October 1996 in the Department of Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study, a 35 year longitudinal study of aging. We examined the development of gout and an increased uric acid level in relation to lead, adjusting for other known risk factors. Lead levels were measured in blood and by K x-ray fluorescence (K-XRF) technique in tibial (cortical) and patellar (trabecular) bone.
Results: Blood lead levels in this mostly Caucasian (97%) population were low (mean 5.9 microg/dl, SD 3.5). Bone lead levels were comparable to those described in other general populations. In a multivariate analysis adjusting for the risk factors, age, body mass index, diastolic blood pressure, alcohol intake, and serum creatinine level, there was a positive association between patellar bone lead and uric acid levels (p = 0.02). Of 777 participants, 52 (6.7%) had developed gouty arthritis. In logistic regression of similar covariates, body mass index (p < 0.0001) and serum creatinine level (p = 0.005) were the strongest determinants of gout; neither bone nor blood lead levels predicted gout in this cohort.
Conclusion: The longterm accumulation of lead is associated with an increased uric acid level in middle aged and elderly men. However, this study shows no association between lead and gouty arthritis at the levels arising from community exposure.