Determinants of the blood lead level of US women of reproductive age

J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Feb;24(1):1-9. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2005.10719436.


Objectives: Blood lead concentration of an infant is largely affected by maternal blood lead recycling. This study aimed to identify sociodemographic, lifestyle, and nutritional determinants for blood lead levels (BLLs) of women of reproductive age in the United States.

Methods: Subjects (n = 4,394) were women (20-49 years old) included in the most recent complete National Health and Nutritional Survey (NHANES III). Certain sociodemographic, lifestyle and nutritional determinants for BLL were identified.

Results: The BLL of reproductive age women was 1.78 microg/dL geometric mean, The BLL was inversely associated with poverty income ratio and education level, hematocrit, intake of thiamine, and serum levels of folate, and positively associated with ethnicity (Black, Hispanic), living in urban areas or the Northeast region, age, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, serum protoporphyrin, and intake of pyridoxine, iron, and folate. Subjects in the lowest decile for serum ascorbic acid had significantly higher BLLs than those in the 2nd through 8th deciles.

Conclusion: Infants born to women who smoke, drink and maintain poor nutritional status for selected nutrients are at a greater risk of lead toxicity than those born to other women. Nutritional manipulation of thiamine, ascorbic acid and folate may impact BLL in women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Ascorbic Acid / blood
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Folic Acid / blood
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn / blood
  • Lead / blood*
  • Lead Poisoning / blood
  • Lead Poisoning / prevention & control*
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Thiamine / administration & dosage*
  • Thiamine / blood
  • United States


  • Lead
  • Folic Acid
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Thiamine