Effects of Lead on the Immune System of Children


Animal models of lead exposure indicate that lead is an immunosuppressive agent at levels far below those required for over toxicity. Available human data is restricted to adults and fails to assess the effects that may occur on the more fragile developing immune system of young children. We have identified groups of urban children ages 9 months to 6 years with blood lead levels between 10 and 25 μg dL-1 and with levels exceeding 25 μg dL-1 in the Springfield-Greene County area of Missouri, through their participation in local WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) and Lead Poisoning Prevention Programs. After an initial screening of ZPP and blood Pb by these programs, children are recruited into our study. Parameters examined in our initial year are the percent lymphocytes, monocytes and granulocytes; the percent T cells (total), B cells, TH, TS and TH/TS; serum IgG, IgM, IgA, and IgE; and antibody titers to Rubella. Unfortunately, control data for some of these parameters in small children is sparse, if available at all. We have matched controls by age, sex, race, and socio-economic level from these same programs. We discuss here data from control and experimental subjects collected to date. For most of our assays in most age groups we do not see statistically significant differences among the risk categories (based on ZPP and blood lead levels). In the 9-15-month age group, we see a suggestion of an effect on the percent monocytes and TS, and TH/TS ratios. In the 23-29-month age group, there is a suggestion of an effect on the percent T cells (total). However, at this point in our study we approach any conclusions with caution; numbers of experimental subjects are small, especially in the higher risk categories. We discuss this problem, as well as the change in limits on acceptable blood lead levels, technical difficulties, and assays to be added to our screening in future years of our study.



Second Department

Biological Sciences

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Article - Conference proceedings

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Publication Date

01 Jan 1994

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