This paper provides the first baseline information on a national scale regarding lead exposure in the Spanish adult population. Blood lead levels were measured in a representative sample of the Spanish working population (1880 subjects aged 18-65 years) in order to help establish reference levels, follow temporal trends, identify high-exposure groups and to enable comparisons with other countries. All participants completed an epidemiological questionnaire including gender, age, occupational sector, geographic area, and dietary and lifestyle information. We found that the geometric mean of blood lead levels in the study population was 24.0μg/L (95% CI: 23.0-25.1μg/L), with women having significantly lower levels than men, 19.5μg/L (18.5-20.5μg/L) compared to 28.3μg/L (26.7-30.0μg/L), respectively. Mean blood lead levels were higher in elder groups in both genders. Women of a childbearing age had blood levels of 18.0μg/L (GM). Reference values (95%) for lead in blood in the studied population was 56.80μg/L, with -64.00μg/L, 44.80μg/L and 36.00μg/L for man, women and women of childbearing age, respectively. Workers from the service sector had lower blood lead levels than those from the construction, agricultural and industry sectors. Small, although significant, geographical differences had been found. In an European comparison, the Spanish population studied herein had lead levels similar to populations in countries such as France and Belgium, and slightly lower levels than Italian, Czech, German or UK populations.
Keywords: Blood; Human biomonitoring (HBM); ICP-MS; Lead exposure; Spanish population.
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