Immunity in Children with Exposure to Environmental Lead: I. Effects on Cell Numbers and Cell-Mediated Immunity


Studies conducted in animal systems have shown that lead is an immunosuppressive agent at levels far below those causing overt toxicity. Children less than six years of age are the population at highest risk for exposure to environmental lead; however little data were available to assess effects on the developing immune system in this age group. Reported here is the completed Phase I study on 193 children, ages 9 months to 6 years, with blood lead levels from 1 to 50 (μg dL-1, recruited from the urban population of Springfield-Greene County, Missouri, through their participation in the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) and Lead Poisoning Prevention Programs. This portion of the study dealt with enumeration of cells involved with the immune response and in vitro mitogenic stimulation of lymphocytes. The percent lymphocytes, monocytes, granulocytes, T cells (total), B cells, CD4+T's and CD8+T's and CD4+/CD8+ ratios were determined and the data were analysed. No consistent significant differences were seen among the various risk categories currently identified by the CDC. Though two age groups showed some possible effect of lead, none of the various cellular parameters within these age groups showed significant correlation with blood lead. The lymphocyte response to in vitro mitogenic stimulus was studied on 42 children (including 17 in risk classifications IIA and higher) using the mitogens phytohemagglutinin (PHA), Concanavalin A (Con A), and Pokeweed mitogen (PWM). No consistent statistically significant differences were seen among the various risk categories; the effects of lead, if present, are most likely subtle and obscured by the interindividual and time-dependent variation inherent in this type of study. © 1994 Sciences and Technology Letters.



Second Department

Biological Sciences

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1573-2983; 0269-4042

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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Publication Date

01 Dec 1994