Blood Lead Concentrations and Antibody Levels to Measles, Mumps, and Rubella among U.S. Children

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Aug 22;16(17):3035. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16173035.


Child blood lead concentrations have been associated with measures of immune dysregulation in nationally representative study samples. However, response to vaccination-often considered the gold standard in immunotoxicity testing-has not been examined in relation to typical background lead concentrations common among U.S. children. The present study estimated the association between blood lead concentrations and antigen-specific antibody levels to measles, mumps, and rubella in a nationally representative sample of 7005 U.S. children aged 6-17 years. Data from the 1999-2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were used. In the adjusted models, children with blood lead concentrations between 1 and 5 µg/dL had an 11% lower anti-measles (95% CI: -16, -5) and a 6% lower anti-mumps antibody level (95% CI: -11, -2) compared to children with blood lead concentrations <1 µg/dL. The odds of a seronegative anti-measles antibody level was approximately two-fold greater for children with blood lead concentrations between 1 and 5 µg/dL compared to children with blood lead concentrations <1 µg/dL (OR = 2.0, 95% CI: 1.4, 3.1). The adverse associations observed in the present study provide further evidence of potential immunosuppression at blood lead concentrations <5 µg/dL, the present Centers for Disease Control and Prevention action level.

Keywords: B cell; MMR; NHANES; T cell; herd immunity; immune; immunology; immunotoxicology; lead; seronegative; seropositive; vaccination; vaccine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood*
  • Male
  • Measles / immunology
  • Morbillivirus / immunology*
  • Mumps / immunology
  • Mumps virus / immunology*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Rubella / immunology
  • Rubella virus / immunology*
  • United States


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Lead