Contribution of lead from calcium supplements to blood lead

Brian L. Gulson*, Karen J. Mizon, Jacqueline M. Palmer, Michael J. Korsch, Alan J. Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

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    17 Citations (Scopus)
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    We conducted a case-control study to determine the contribution of lead to blood from consumption of calcium supplements approximating the recommended daily intakes over a 6-month period. Subjects were males and females ages 21 to 47 years (geometric mean 32 years) with a geometric mean blood lead concentration of 2.5 μg/dL. They were subdivided into three groups. One treatment group (n = 8) was administered a complex calcium supplement (carbonate/phosphate/citrate) and the other treatment group (n = 7) calcium carbonate. The control group (n = 6) received no supplement. The lead isotopic compositions of the supplements were completely different from those of the blood of the subjects, allowing us easily to estimate contribution from the supplements. The daily lead dose from the supplements at 100% compliance was about 3 μg Pb. Three blood samples were taken at 2-month intervals before treatment to provide background values, and three were taken during treatment. Subjects in the treatment group were thus their own controls. Lead isotopic compositions for the complex supplement showed minimal change during treatment compared with pretreatment. Lead isotopic compositions in blood for the calcium carbonate supplement showed increases of up to 0.5% in the 206Pb/204Pb ratio, and for all isotope ratios there was a statistically significant difference between baseline and treatment (p < 0.005). The change from baseline to treatment for the calcium carbonate supplement differed from that for both the control group and the group administered the complex supplement. Blood lead concentrations, however, showed minimal changes. Variations in blood lead levels over time did not differ significantly between groups. Our results are consistent with earlier investigations using radioactive and stable lead tracers, which showed minimal gastrointestinal absorption of lead in the presence of calcium (± phosphorus) in adults. Even though there is no discernible increase in blood lead concentration during treatment, there are significant changes in the isotopic composition of lead in blood arising from the calcium carbonate supplement, indicating a limited input of lead from diet into the blood. Because calcium carbonate is overwhelmingly the most popular calcium supplement, the changes we have observed merit further investigation. In addition, this type of study, combined with a duplicate diet, needs to be repeated for children, whose fractional absorption of lead is considerably higher than that of adults.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)283-288
    Number of pages6
    JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2001

    Bibliographical note

    Reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives.


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