Levels of lead in blood and bone of women giving birth in a Boston hospital

Arch Environ Health. Jan-Feb 1996;51(1):52-8. doi: 10.1080/00039896.1996.9935994.


Blood lead levels declined among Americans aged 1-74 y between the years 1976 and 1991 (National Health and Examination Survey [NHANES III]). In 1990, umbilical cord blood lead levels were surveyed among 223 women who gave birth in a Boston hospital obstetrical service. In a survey conducted 10 y earlier, women had a mean umbilical cord blood lead level of 6.56 micrograms/dl (standard deviation = 3.19). In another subgroup of 41 women who were 1-4 wk postpartum, bone lead levels were surveyed with a K-x-ray fluorescence instrument and by analysis of venous blood lead levels. In 1990, umbilical cord blood lead levels were very low (i.e., mean and median of 1.19 [standard deviation = 1.32] and 1.0 micrograms/dl, respectively. In the subgroup of postpartum women, lead levels in cortical bone (i.e., tibia) and trabecular bone (i.e., patella) were also low (i.e., tibia mean and median of 4.5 [standard deviation = 4.0] and 4 micrograms/g bone mineral, respectively); patella mean and median of 5.8 [standard deviation = 4.5] and 5 micrograms/g, respectively). Maternal age was the only factor associated (i.e., borderline [p=.076]) with bone lead. Umbilical cord blood lead levels among women served by this Boston hospital from 1980 to 1990 declined dramatically, thus paralleling the National Health and Examination Survey. Bone lead levels were also low, but lead remains a reproductive hazard to women in select high-risk groups.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bone and Bones / chemistry*
  • Boston
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Lead / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, Hospital
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy


  • Lead