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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

DOI

10.5694/mja2.50427

Type

Journal article

Journal

Med J Aust

Publication Date

24/11/2019

Keywords

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