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December 17, 1973

Epidemiology of Lead PoisoningA Comparison Between Urban and Rural Children

JAMA. 1973;226(12):1430-1433. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03230120022006

Blood lead levels of 230 rural and 272 urban children were compared. Their mean age was 4 years.

The mean blood lead level of the rural group was markedly lower than that of the urban group (22.8μg compared to 32.7 μg/100 ml). Nine percent of the rural children had laboratory evidence of "undue lead absorption" (blood lead level ≥ 40μg/100 ml), compared to 23% of the urban children.

None of the demographic variables examined for the rural children could be related to the presence of blood lead levels greater than or equal to 40μg/100 ml. Testing of rural homes identified both interior and exterior paint as important sources of ingestible lead. Thus, lead poisoning could occur in rural areas and should be included in differential diagnosis of appropriate cases.

Among urban children, lead in paint as well as airborne lead through contamination of soil may contribute to the increased body burden of lead.