Demographic and Socioeconomic Factors Associated with Blood Lead Levels Among Mexican-American Children and Adolescents in the United States

Published in: Public Health Reports, v. 120, no. 4, July-Aug. 2005, p. 448-454

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2005

by Leo S. Morales, Peter R. Gutierrez, Jose J. Escarce

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OBJECTIVE: 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. METHODS: The authors 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). RESULTS: 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. CONCLUSIONS: 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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