Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate blood lead levels in an Australian birth cohort of children; to identify factors associated with higher lead levels. DESIGN, SETTING: Cross-sectional study within the Barwon Infant Study, a population birth cohort study in the Barwon region of Victoria (1074 infants, recruited June 2010 - June 2013). Data were adjusted for non-participation and attrition by propensity weighting. PARTICIPANTS: Blood lead was measured in 523 of 708 children appraised in the Barwon Infant Study pre-school review (mean age, 4.2 years; SD, 0.3 years). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Blood lead concentration in whole blood (μg/dL). RESULTS: The median blood lead level was 0.8 μg/dL (range, 0.2-3.7 μg/dL); the geometric mean blood lead level after propensity weighting was 0.97 μg/dL (95% CI, 0.92-1.02 μg/dL). Children in houses 50 or more years old had higher blood lead levels (adjusted mean difference [AMD], 0.13 natural log units; 95% CI, 0.02-0.24 natural log units; P = 0.020), as did children of families with lower household income (per $10 000, AMD, -0.035 natural log units; 95% CI, -0.056 to -0.013 natural log units; P = 0.002) and those living closer to Point Henry (inverse square distance relationship; P = 0.002). Associations between hygiene factors and lead levels were evident only for children living in older homes. CONCLUSION: Blood lead levels in our pre-school children were lower than in previous Australian surveys and recent surveys in areas at risk of higher exposure, and no children had levels above 5 μg/dL. Our findings support advice to manage risks related to exposure to historical lead, especially in older houses.

Original publication




Journal article


Med J Aust

Publication Date



Air pollutants, Environmental pollution, Epidemiology, Lead, Longitudinal studies, Public health, Socioeconomic factors