Subclinical neuropathy at "safe" levels of lead exposure

Arch Environ Health. 1975 Apr;30(4):180-3. doi: 10.1080/00039896.1975.10666672.


Electrophysiological methods revealed subclinical neuropathy in 26 workers, exposed from 1 to 17 years to lead and whose blood lead (PbB) values had never exceeded 70mu/100ml, as ascertained by checking the monitor reports of the factory and by careful exposure history. The PbB determinations had been tested repeatedly and had been found valid. The main findings were slowing of the maximal motor conduction velocities of the median and ulnar nerves and particularly the conduction velocity of the slower fibers of the ulnar nerve. Electromyographical abnormalities comprised fibrillations, diminution of the number of motor units on maximal contraction, and an abnormally long duration of the units. Earlier similar measurements from heavily exposed workers had been even more abnormal. Thus, a dose-response relationship exists on a group basis. Since the regular monitoring of PbBs in most workers during their entire period of exposure excludes the possibility of a body burden out of proportion to the PbB slight neurological damage is produced at exposures hitherto regarded as quite safe.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Burden
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electromyography
  • Electrophysiology
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood*
  • Lead Poisoning / blood
  • Lead Poisoning / complications*
  • Lead Poisoning / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Median Nerve / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Neural Conduction
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Peroneal Nerve / physiopathology
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic
  • Spinal Nerves / physiopathology*
  • Tibial Nerve / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Ulnar Nerve / physiopathology


  • Lead