Linking source and effect: resuspended soil lead, air lead, and children's blood lead levels in Detroit, Michigan

Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Mar 19;47(6):2839-45. doi: 10.1021/es303854c. Epub 2013 Mar 4.


This study evaluates atmospheric concentrations of soil and Pb aerosols, and blood lead levels (BLLs) in 367839 children (ages 0-10) in Detroit, Michigan from 2001 to 2009 to test a hypothesized soil → air dust → child pathway of contemporary Pb risk. Atmospheric soil and Pb show near-identical seasonal properties that match seasonal variation in children's BLLs. Resuspended soil appears to be a significant underlying source of atmospheric Pb. A 1% increase in the amount of resuspended soil results in a 0.39% increase in the concentration of Pb in the atmosphere (95% CI, 0.28 to 0.50%). In turn, atmospheric Pb significantly explains age-dependent variation in child BLLs. Other things held equal, a change of 0.0069 μg/m(3) in atmospheric Pb increases BLL of a child 1 year of age by 10%, while approximately 3 times the concentration of Pb in air (0.023 μg/m(3)) is required to induce the same increase in BLL of a child 7 years of age. Similarly, a 0.0069 μg/m(3) change in air Pb increases the odds of a child <1 year of age having a BLL ≥ 5 μg/dL by a multiplicative factor of 1.32 (95% CI, 1.26 to 1.37). Overall, the resuspension of Pb contaminated soil explains observed seasonal variation in child BLLs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Atmosphere / analysis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Lead / blood*
  • Male
  • Michigan
  • Seasons
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Lead