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Patterns of Blood Lead Levels by Race in U.S. Women of Childbearing Ages

Publication Abstract

Geronimus, Arline T., and Marianne M. Hillemeier. "Patterns of Blood Lead Levels by Race in U.S. Women of Childbearing Ages." PSC Research Report No. 90-197. November 1990.

While high-dose lead exposure has long been known be detrimental to reproductive functioning, several recent studies have reported adverse effects such as shortened gestation, decreased birthweight, and increased incidence of spontaneous abortion in association with maternal blood lead levels as low as .48 to .72 micromol/L(10 to 15 micrograms/dl). Using data from the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES II), we examined patterns of blood lead levels by age for black and white women of childbearing age in the US. We found that sizable percentages of women have blood lead levels which may place them at risk for poor reproductive outcomes, and that significant racial disparities exist. Black women tend to have higher lead levels than white women, and the magnitude of this difference is larger among older compared to younger age groups of reproductive-age women. This disparity may have implications for the excessive incidence of adverse reproductive outcomes currently seen in US black women.

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