Longitudinal study of daily intake and excretion of lead in newly born infants

Brian L. Gulson*, Karen J. Mizon, Jacqueline M. Palmer, Nicole Patison, Alistair J. Law, Michael J. Korsch, Kathryn R. Mahaffey, John B. Donnelly

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    32 Citations (Scopus)


    As an adjunct to a study of lead mobilization during pregnancy and lactation, we have obtained estimates of the daily lead intake and excretion/intake for 15 newly born infants monitored for at least 6 months postpartum. The longitudinal data presented reflect the far lower levels of environmental contribution to lead in blood in the 1990's than that in the earlier studies from the 1970's and early 1980's, the last period for which such dietary information is available in newly born infants. Infants were breast-fed or formula-fed or both and, in the second quarter, were usually fed solid foods (beikost). Lead concentrations were as follows: lead in breast milk, ranged from 0.09 to 3.1 μg/kg with a geometric mean of 0.55 μg/kg, lead in infant formula ranged from 0.07 to 11.4 μg/kg with a geometric mean of 1.6 μg/kg, and lead in beikost ranged from 1.1 to 27 μg/kg with a geometric mean of 2.9 μg/kg. Daily lead intakes ranged from 0.04 to 0.83 μg/kg body weight/day with a geometric mean of 0.23 μg Pb/kg body weight/day, and excretion/intake ranged from 0.7 to 22 with a geometric mean of 2.6. There was no significant difference at the 5% level in lead concentration in daily intakes and excretion/intake for the first quarter versus the second quarter for this small number of subjects. Assuming that there was no contribution from environmental samples such as house dust and ambient air, the contribution of diet to blood has been estimated from lead isotopic measurements with the following ranges: for breast milk only as the dietary source, 40 to 65%; for breast milk and infant formula as the dietary sources, 15 to 70%; and for infant formula and beikost, 20 to 80%. The geometric mean value of the dietary contribution to blood over the 6-month period of approximately 35% is consistent with earlier estimates of uptake of lead in blood in newly born infants when environmental lead concentrations were much higher. Other sources such as air, soil, and dust are considered to contribute minimally to blood lead in these infants because of the low 206Pb/ 204Pb ratios in environmental media. Thus, we consider that the increased excretion over intake, along with other evidence, reflects mobilization of infant tissues arising especially from rapid bone turnover at this stage of life; the tissue lead has been identified isotopically in urine.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)232-245
    Number of pages14
    JournalEnvironmental Research
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


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