Background: To evaluate whether salivary lead can be used as a surrogate for blood lead, and if so, over what concentration range.
Methodology: Three saliva devices were evaluated and one chosen to undertake this project. Paired saliva and blood samples were collected from 89 UK lead workers. Lead concentrations were determined using ICP-MS. In addition, haemoglobin and ZPP levels were determined in the blood samples and albumin was determined in the saliva samples to investigate standardisation using protein adjustments.
Results: The chosen saliva device gave low but consistent recoveries for lead in saliva and the blank levels were low. The mean +/- SD blood lead level was 19.9 +/- 14 μg/dl; the mean +/- SD saliva lead level was 19.1 +/- 32.5 μg/l for 89 workers. Log10-transformed data showed correlation of r=0.69. The protein adjustments did not improve the blood-saliva correlation.
Conclusions: This study has demonstrated that salivary lead measurement is feasible and correlated with blood lead levels, at least at occupational exposure levels, and may have value as a screening technique. Correlation may improve at environmental levels where exposures are generally more consistent and chronic, although this needs to be demonstrated in a genuine environmental population.
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LEAD. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
National Institutes of Health Available at: http://ntp.niehs.nih.
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