Determinants of blood lead levels in children: a cross-sectional study in the Canary Islands (Spain)

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2012 Apr;215(3):383-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2011.10.011. Epub 2011 Nov 21.


The adverse effects of lead exposure on children are well known. Low blood lead levels (BLL) produce neurodevelopmental delay and cognitive disorders. However, since BLL thresholds for adverse effects on children's health are not known, the children population at risk of excessive lead exposure still has to be identified. This study was aimed at evaluating BLL in a children population of Gran Canaria (Canary Islands, Spain). Up to our knowledge, this is the first study to report on BLL in this population. Lead was identified and quantified in blood samples of 120 children, by means of Graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (GFAAS). Lead was undetected in 80% of samples; BLL was 1 to 5 μg/dl in 15% of samples, and higher than 5 μg/dl in more than 4% of samples. BLL values in the evaluated children were low and similar to those described for other populations in Western countries. However, samples with the highest contamination (those in percentile 95) reached BLLs as high as 5.2 μg/dl. Positive associations were found between BLL and recent immigration (children adopted from non-western countries), and between BLL and parental smoking in children with low weight at birth. Since lead exposure in childhood may be a causative factor in adverse health trends - especially those involving the neurological system - and since threshold values for adverse lead effects are unknown, our finding that around 20% of the studied children had BLL higher than 1 μg/dl are of concern. Enhancing preventive measures for reducing lead exposure in children from the Canary Islands deserves further study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lead / blood*
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spain


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Lead