Identification of sources of lead in children in a primary zinc-lead smelter environment

Brian L. Gulson*, Karen J. Mizon, Jeff D. Davis, Jacqueline M. Palmer, Graham Vimpani

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    61 Citations (Scopus)


    We compared high-precision lead isotopic ratios in deciduous teeth and environmental samples to evaluate sources of lead in 10 children from six houses in a primary zinc-lead smelter community at North Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia. Teeth were sectioned to allow identification of lead exposure in utero and in early childhood. Blood lead levels in the children ranged from 10 to 42 μg/dL and remained elevated for a number of years. For most children, only a small contribution to tooth lead can be attributed to gasoline and paint sources. In one child with a blood lead concentration of 19.7 μg/dL, paint could account for about 45% of lead in her blood. Comparison of isotopic ratios of tooth lead levels with those from vacuum cleaner dust, dust-fall accumulation, surface wipes, ceiling (attic) dust, and an estimation of the smelter emissions indicates that from approximately 55 to 100% of lead could be derived from the smelter. For a blood sample from another child, > 90% of lead could be derived from the smelter. We found varying amounts of in utero-derived lead in the teeth. Despite the contaminated environment and high blood lead concentrations in the children, the levels of lead in the teeth are surprisingly low compared with those measured in children from other lead mining and smelting communities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)52-60
    Number of pages9
    JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004


    Dive into the research topics of 'Identification of sources of lead in children in a primary zinc-lead smelter environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this