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Dietary and Inhalation Intake of Lead and Estimation of Blood Lead Levels in Adults and Children in Kanpur, India


Address correspondence to Mukesh Sharma, Environmental Engineering and Management Program, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Kanpur 208016, India;


This research was initiated to study lead levels in various food items in the city of Kanpur, India, to assess the dietary intake of lead and to estimate blood lead (PbB) levels, a biomarker of lead toxicity. For this purpose, sampling of food products, laboratory analysis, and computational exercises were undertaken. Specifically, six food groups (leafy vegetables, nonleafy vegetables, fruits, pulses, cereals, and milk), drinking water, and lead air concentration were considered for estimating lead intake. Results indicated highest lead content in leafy vegetables followed by pulses. Fruits showed low lead content and drinking water lead levels were always within tolerable limits. It was estimated that average daily lead intake through diet was about 114 μg/day for adults and 50 μg/day in children; tolerable limit is 250 μg/day for adults and 90 μg/day for children. The estimated lead intakes were translated into the resultant PbB concentrations for children and adults using a physiologically-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) model. Monte Carlo simulation of PbB level variations for adults showed that probability of exceeding the tolerable limit of PbB (i.e.,10 μg/dL) was 0.062 for the pre-unleaded and 0.000328 for the post-unleaded gasoline period. The probability of exceeding tolerable limits in PbB level was reduced by a factor of 189 in the post-unleaded scenario. The study also suggested that in spite of the introduction of unleaded gasoline, children continue to be at a high risk (probability of exceeding 10 μg/dL = 0.39) because of a high intake of lead per unit body weight.