An electroneurographic assessment of subclinical lead neurotoxicity

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1988;61(1-2):141-6. doi: 10.1007/BF00381618.


While heavy exposure to inorganic lead is capable of inducing symptomatic neuropathy in man, the subclinical neuropathy due to low levels of occupational lead exposure remains to be proved. The reported results of electroneurographic studies on lead workers, however, have been controversial. In this study, 40 lead smeltery workers and 50 non-exposed referents were investigated. The air concentrations of lead at worksites were 0.25 to 42.5 mg/m3. The geometric means of PbB, PbU and delta-ALAU in lead exposed group were 40.03 micrograms/dl, 71 micrograms/l and 4.68 mg/l respectively, which were significantly higher (P less than 0.001) than those (7.01 micrograms/dl, 6.0 micrograms/l and 1.81 mg/l respectively) in the reference group. There were no clinical symptoms or signs of nerve damage in either group. Alcoholism and diabetes were excluded in both groups. Nerve conduction velocity was measured by a DISA 1500 electromyograph in both groups. Eleven electroneurographic parameters, including motor nerve conduction velocity (MCV) and distal latency (DML) of median, ulnar and peroneal nerves as well as sensory nerve conduction velocity (SCV) and distal latency (DSL) of median, ulnar and sural nerves, showed statistically significant differences between the two groups. However, the results of electroneurographic measurements of each individual in the lead-exposed group were all within the normal range. There was no correlation between the blood-lead levels and the neurophysiological measurements except for the median MCV. No correlation was seen between the median MCV and the exposure duration.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / analysis
  • Lead Poisoning / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Conduction* / drug effects
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Reaction Time / drug effects


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Lead