Exposure to inorganic lead continues to be an important health problem worldwide.
In the U.S. the vast majority of reported elevated blood lead levels (BLLs) have been work related.
To further the goal of reducing lead exposures in adults, NIOSH makes available to
the public health community lead exposure data through this interactive database.
Since 1994, the state-based Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES) program has
tracked laboratory-reported BLLs in U.S. adults. An overall decline in the national prevalence rates
of BLLs ≥ 25 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) from 14.0 adults per 100,000 employed adults
in 1994 to 7.4 in 2005 is observed. This represents a 47% decrease in the prevalence rates of
BLLs ≥ 25 µg/dL during this 17-year time period. These results are likely underestimates of the
true magnitude of lead exposures in adults, because some employers might not provide BLL testing
to all lead-exposed workers as required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration
regulations and because some laboratories might not report all tests as required by state regulations.
These factors likely vary across the participating ABLES states.
Recent research has led to increased concerns about the toxicity of lead at low doses. Reflecting this increased concern, the ABLES program updated its case definition for an elevated BLL to a blood lead concentration ≥10 µg/dL in 2009. This new case definition has also been: (1) recommended by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists in 2009; (2) included in CDC’s list of nationally notifiable conditions in 2010; and (3) adopted as the Healthy People 2020 Occupational Safety and Health Objective 7. Given this new case definition, NIOSH will update the ABLES Charts and Interactive Database to include lead exposures to BLL ≥10 µg/dL in the near future.