OPEN Environmental health and toxicology | 3 Nov 2017
KM Lee, SE Oh, GB Kim, SH Hwang and M Ha
The objective of this study was to verify a change in the longitudinal trend of blood lead levels for the Korean population, before and after the regulation of leaded gasoline-which occurred between 1987 and 1993 in Korea. A total of 77 general Korean population blood lead level reports from between 1981 and 2014 were selected, and the results were summarized to have the variables of year, number of subjects,the subjects' range in age, sex and blood lead concentrations (arithmetic mean). The annual average lead levels for four major cities, i.e., Seoul, Busan, Daegu and Gwangju were collected from The Air Pollution Monitoring Database from 1991, and pilot studies from 1985 to 1990 before the national air quality monitoring system was launched in 1991. Furthermore, blood lead levels were visualized in a bubble plot in which the size of each bubble represented the sample size of each study, and the annual average concentrations in ambient air were depicted on line graphs. Blood lead levels in the Korean population tended to gradually increase from the early 1980s (approximately 15-20 ug/dL) until 1990-1992 (20-25 ug/dL). Blood lead levels then began to rapidly decrease until 2014 (<2 ug/dL). Similar patterns were observed for both adults (≥9 years) and younger children/adolescents. The same longitudinal trend was observed in annual average air lead concentration, which suggests a significant correlation between air lead concentration and blood lead concentration in the general population. The regulation of leaded gasoline has significantly contributed to the rapid change in blood lead concentrations. Consequently, the regulation of other sources of lead exposure should be considered to further decrease blood lead levels in the Korean population.
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