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Causes of lead toxicity in a Nigerian city
  1. N J Wright1,
  2. T D Thacher2,
  3. M A Pfitzner3,
  4. P R Fischer4,
  5. J M Pettifor5
  1. 1Las Vegas Clinic for Children and Youth, 501 7th Street, Las Vegas, New Mexico 87701, USA
  2. 2Department of Family Medicine, Jos University Teaching Hospital, P.M.B. 2076, Jos, Nigeria
  3. 3Department of Pediatrics, University of Utah, Rm 1B386, 30 N. 1900 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84132, USA
  4. 4Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA
  5. 5MRC Mineral Metabolism Research Unit, Department of Paediatrics, University of the Witwatersrand and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, PO Bertsham 2013, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr P R Fischer
    Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA;


Background: Up to 70% of young Nigerian children have been reported to have blood lead concentrations ⩾10 μg/dl.

Aims: To better elucidate risk factors for lead toxicity among Nigerian families with children at risk for lead toxicity.

Methods: Two geographic wards in Jos, Nigeria were selected for study, one previously reported to have a high mean blood lead level (37 (SD 13) μg/dl) and one with a lower mean blood lead level (17 (SD 10) μg/dl) in young children. Data pertaining to potential risk factors for lead exposure were collected from children and adults in 34 households.

Results: The mean (SD) blood lead concentration of 275 subjects, aged 3 weeks to 90 years, was 8.7 (5.7) μg/dl (range 1–34 μg/dl); 92 (34%) had concentrations ⩾10 μg/dl. In multivariate analysis, an age of 5 years and under, flaking house paint, residence near a gasoline seller, male gender, increasing maternal and paternal education, and use of a lead ore eye cosmetic were independently associated with greater blood lead concentration. Vehicle ownership was associated with reduced lead concentration. Compared with the low-lead ward, residence in the high-lead ward remained significantly associated with greater lead values, indicating that additional factors likely contribute to lead exposure.

Conclusion: Although the cause of increased lead levels in Jos appears to be multi-factorial, several remediable sources contribute to lead exposure in Nigeria.

  • Africa
  • environmental health
  • cosmetics
  • toxicology
  • lead toxicity

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