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Higher Bone Lead Levels Linked to Higher Mortality

Last Updated: September 09, 2009.

Lead concentration in the bones accumulated in prior decades of environmental exposure is associated with all-cause and all-cardiovascular mortality, according to a study published online Sept. 8 in Circulation.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Lead concentration in the bones accumulated in prior decades of environmental exposure is associated with all-cause and all-cardiovascular mortality, according to a study published online Sept. 8 in Circulation.

Marc G. Weisskopf, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues followed 868 elderly men in the Department of Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study, whose bone lead had been measured using K-shell X-ray fluorescence. The researchers looked for associations between blood lead, bone lead, all-cause mortality and all-cardiovascular mortality.

In a mean 8.9 years of follow-up, the researchers found that there were 241 deaths. For all-cause mortality, the hazard ratio for subjects in the highest tertile of patella bone lead was 2.52 compared to those in the lowest tertile (reference). For all-cardiovascular mortality, the hazard ratio was 5.63 for those in the highest tertile of patella bone lead compared to the lowest tertile. The hazard ratio for the sub-category ischemic heart disease mortality (adjusted for age, race and smoking) in the highest tertile was 8.37 compared to the lowest terile. Tibia bone lead results were similar. However, the authors note, there was no bone lead association discerned for cancer, and no association between blood lead and any mortality category.

"This study suggests that cumulative lead exposure from prior decades of high environmental exposures continues to significantly affect risk of death despite recent declines in environmental lead exposure," Weisskopf and colleagues conclude.

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