Deaths related to lead poisoning in the United States, 1979-1998

Environ Res. 2003 Feb;91(2):78-84. doi: 10.1016/s0013-9351(02)00017-8.


This study was conducted to describe trends in US lead poisoning-related deaths between 1979 and 1998. The predictive value of relevant ICD-9 codes was also evaluated. Multiple cause-of-death files were searched for records containing relevant ICD-9 codes, and underlying causes and demographic characteristics were assessed. For 1979-1988, death certificates were reviewed; lead source information was abstracted and accuracy of coding was determined. An estimated 200 lead poisoning-related deaths occurred from 1979 to 1998. Most were among males (74%), Blacks (67%), adults of age >/=45 years (76%), and Southerners (70%). The death rate was significantly lower in more recent years. An alcohol-related code was a contributing cause for 28% of adults. Only three of nine ICD-9 codes for lead poisoning were highly predictive of lead poisoning-related deaths. In conclusion, lead poisoning-related death rates have dropped dramatically since earlier decades and are continuing to decline. However, the findings imply that moonshine ingestion remains a source of high-dose lead exposure in adults.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Death Certificates
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lead Poisoning / mortality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology