October 1985

Identification of Community Flour Mills as the Source of Lead Poisoning in West Bank Arabs

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Public Health and the Institute for Standardization and Control of Pharmaceuticals, Israel Ministry of Health, Jerusalem (Drs Eisenberg, Avni, Grauer, and Weissenberg); the Department of Public Health, District of Nablus (Ms Acker, Mr Hamdallah, and Dr Shahin); and the Department of Medicine, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem (Drs Moreb and Hershko).

Arch Intern Med. 1985;145(10):1848-1851. doi:10.1001/archinte.1985.00360100110018

• Following the discovery of severe lead poisoning in members of several households in a West Bank village, studies were carried out to establish the magnitude of the problem in the community and to identify the source of lead poisoning. Forty-three patients with Centers for Disease Control risk group IV lead poisoning were identified and treated in three villages within a radius of about 10 km of each other. The prevalence of increased lead burden among 563 schoolchildren aged 10 to 18 years was 19% for Centers for Disease Control risk groups I and II and 11% for groups III and IV. A survey of potential sources excluded all items, except for locally ground flour, which was heavily contaminated in all affected households. Examination of community flour mills revealed that, in contrast to unprocessed grain, freshly ground flour contained large amounts of lead originating from lead fillings employed to fasten the housing of the driveshafts to the millstones. Systematic screening of 146 community stone mills in 92 West Bank villages showed significant lead contamination of flour in 33 mills (23%). In all cases, the source of lead contamination was identical. As methods of milling in the area are similar, a prompt investigation of this potential source of lead poisoning in other near-Eastern countries is indicated.

(Arch Intern Med 1985;145:1848-1851)