Iron depletion and blood lead levels in a population with endemic lead poisoning

Isr J Med Sci. 1984 Nov;20(11):1039-43.


The effect of iron depletion on blood lead levels was studied in a group of 558 schoolchildren aged 10 to 18 residing in two West Bank Arab villages with a high prevalence of excessive lead exposure and clinical lead poisoning. Thirty percent of the subjects studied had whole-blood lead levels greater than 30 micrograms/dl, and 45% had whole-blood zinc erythrocyte protoporphyrin greater than 50 micrograms/dl. The percentage of abnormal blood lead values in subjects with normal serum ferritin and transferrin saturation (31%) was similar to that in subjects with one (28%) or two (25%) abnormal iron parameters. Likewise, there was no correlation between serum ferritin and blood lead levels in individual patients (r = 0.059). Normal distribution plots and mean levels of blood lead (27.3 micrograms/dl) were identical in the iron-deficient and iron-replete groups. These findings indicate that iron depletion does not affect blood lead levels and suggest that in man, unlike in experimental animals, iron depletion may not have a significant effect on lead absorption.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Blood Cell Count
  • Child
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Humans
  • Iron / deficiency*
  • Israel / ethnology
  • Lead / blood*
  • Lead Poisoning / blood*
  • Male
  • Protoporphyrins / blood


  • Protoporphyrins
  • zinc protoporphyrin
  • Lead
  • Ferritins
  • Iron