• Open Access

Blood lead levels in the adult Victorian population: results from the Victorian Health Monitor


Correspondence to: Liza M. Kelsall, Health Intelligence Unit, Prevention and Population Health Branch, Victorian Government Department of Health, 50 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000; e-mail: Liza.M.Kelsall@health.vic.gov.au


Objective : To estimate blood lead levels (BLLs) in the adult Victorian population and compare the distribution of BLLs with the current national reference level to better inform public health prevention and management of lead toxicity.

Methods : Population-based cross-sectional health measurement survey of 50 randomly selected Census Collection Districts (CDs) throughout Victoria. The Victorian Health Monitor (VHM) was conducted over 12 months from May 2009 to April 2010. One eligible person (aged 18–75 years) from each household selected within each CD was randomly selected to participate. Persons with an intellectual disability and pregnant women were excluded from the sampling frame. BLLs were obtained from 3,622 of the 3,653 (99%) VHM participants.

Results : The geometric mean and median BLLs from the adult sample were 0.070 μmol/L (95%CI, 0.068–0.073) and 0.05 μmol/L (range: 0.05 to 1.22 μmol/L), respectively. Elevated BLLs (≥0.483 μmol/L or ≥10 μg/dL) were identified in 19 participants (0.7%; 95%CI, 0.3–1.6). Additionally, 86 participants (1.8%; 95%CI, 1.3–2.4) were identified with BLLs between 0.242 and <0.483 μmol/L (5 to <10 μg/dL). The geometric mean BLL was significantly higher for males, compared with females (0.077 μmol/L vs 0.064 μmol/L; p<0.001). BLLs increased significantly with age for both sexes.

Conclusions : The first population estimates of BLLs in Victorian adults indicate the average adult BLL to be well below the current national reference level. However, some groups of the population have BLLs at which adverse effects may occur.

Implications : The results provide baseline estimates for future population health surveillance and comparison with studies of at-risk groups.