Introduction: Tobacco smoke is a source of exposure to thousands of toxic chemicals including lead, a chemical of longstanding public health concern. We assessed trends in blood lead levels in youths and adults with cotinine-verified tobacco smoke exposure by using 10 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Methods: Geometric mean levels of blood lead are presented for increasing levels of tobacco smoke exposure. Regression models for lead included age, race/ethnicity, poverty, survey year, sex, age of home, birth country, and, for adults, alcohol consumption. Lead levels were evaluated for smokers and nonsmokers on the basis of age of residence and occupation.
Results: Positive trend tests indicate that a linear relationship exists between smoke exposure and blood lead levels in youths and adults and that secondhand smoke exposure contributes to blood lead levels above the level caused by smoking.
Conclusion: Youths with secondhand smoke exposure had blood lead levels suggestive of the potential for adverse cognitive outcomes. Despite remediation efforts in housing and the environment and declining smoking rates and secondhand smoke exposure in the United States, tobacco smoke continues to be a substantial source of exposure to lead in vulnerable populations and the population in general.