This study was designed to assess demographic and socioeconomic differences in blood lead levels (BLLs) among Mexican-American children and adolescents in the United States. We analyzed data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994, for 3,325 Mexican-American youth aged 1 to 17 years. The main study outcome measures included a continuous measure (microg/dL) of BLL and two dichotomous measures of BLL (> or =5 microg/dL and > or =10 microg/dL). The mean BLL among Mexican-American children in the United States was 3.45 microg/dL (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.07, 3.87); 20% had BLL > or =5 microg/dL (95% CI 15%, 24%); and 4% had BLL > or =10 microg/dL (95% CI 2%, 6%). In multivariate analyses, gender, age, generational status, home language, family income, education of head of household, age of housing, and source of drinking water were statistically significant independent predictors (p<0.05) of having higher BLLs and of having BLL > or =5 microg/dL, whereas age, family income, housing age, and source of drinking water were significant predictors (p<0.05) of having BLL > or =10 microg/dL. Significant differences in the risk of having elevated BLLs exist among Mexican-American youth. Those at greatest risk should be prioritized for lead screening and lead exposure abatement interventions.

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