Lead exposure and nerve conduction velocity: the differential time course of sensory and motor nerve effects

Neurotoxicology. Summer 1983;4(2):193-202.


Nerve conduction velocities (NCV) of the median motor, median sensory, peroneal motor, and sural nerves were measured on 40 lead-exposed automobile production workers as part of a comprehensive health survey. Blood lead (Pb-B) and blood zinc protoporphyrin (ZPP) were measured. The control group (N = 31) consisted of workers without lead exposure. All subjects were screened for the following conditions: Limb, neck or back injury, diabetes, neurological disease, and alcohol consumption of more than 28 alcoholic beverages per week. Limb temperature was assessed at three sites for each NCV measurement. The lead-exposed workers had slower median sensory NCV (42.9 vs. 46.8 m/sec, p less than 0.006) and slower sural NCV (37.8 vs. 42.8 m/sec, p less than 0.0004). All NCV estimates were then statistically adjusted for age and temperature, and transformed to Z values for further analyses. The mean standardized NCVs were slower in the lead-exposed group for the median sensory (-1.03 vs. -0.04, p less than 0.0003) and the sural nerves (-2.52 vs. -0.52, p less than 0.001). The study group was divided into two groups, with less than ten years and more than ten years of lead exposure. The subsample exposed less than ten years showed slowing of the median sensory (-0.94 vs. -0.04, p less than 0.005) and the sural nerves (-2.42 vs. -0.52, p less than 0.0001). Pb-B and ZPP levels were correlated with sural velocity (r = -0.54, p less than 0.04, and 4 = -49, p less than 0.06, respectively. Mean Pb-B was 59.7 micrograms/dl and mean ZPP was 175.8 micrograms/dl).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead Poisoning / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neural Conduction / drug effects*
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects*
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Protoporphyrins / blood
  • Time Factors


  • Protoporphyrins
  • zinc protoporphyrin