Stable lead isotope profiles in smelter and general urban communities: A comparison of environmental and blood measures

Brian L. Gulson*, Dino Pisaniello, Anthony J. McMichael, Karen J. Mizon, Michael J. Korsch, Colin Luke, Rosie Ashbolt, David G. Pederson, Graham Vimpani, Kathryn R. Mahaffey

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    45 Citations (Scopus)


    High-precision lead isotope ratios and lead concentrations have been compared statistically and graphically in women of child-bearing age (n = 77) from two smelter communities and one general urban community to evaluate the relative contributions to blood lead of tissue lead stores and lead from the contemporaneous environment (soil, floor dust, indoor airborne dust, water, food). Blood lead (PbB) contents were generally low (e.g. <10 μg dL-1). Statistically significant isotopic differences in blood and environmental samples were observed between the three cities although isotopic differences in blood for individual subjects living in close proximity (∼200 m radius) was as large as the differences within a city. No single environmental measure dominated the biological isotope profile and in many cases the low levels of blood lead meant that their isotopic profiles could be easily perturbed by relatively small changes of environmental exposure. Apportioning of sources using lead isotopes is possibly not feasible, nor cost effective, when blood lead levels are <5 μg dL-1. Interpretations based on statistical analyses of city-wide data do not give the same conclusions as when the houses are considered individually. Aggregating data from multiple subjects in a study such as this obscures potentially useful information. Most of the measures employed in this study, and many other similar studies, are markers of only short-to-medium integration of lead exposure. Serial sampling of blood and longer sampling times, especially for household variables, should provide more meaningful information.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)147-163
    Number of pages17
    JournalEnvironmental Geochemistry and Health
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1996


    • Blood
    • Environmental samples
    • Isotopes
    • Lead


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