Exploring persistent racial/ethnic disparities in lead exposure among American children aged 1–5 years: results from NHANES 1999–2016

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Abstract

Objective: The aim of this study was to determine whether long-standing racial disparities in lead exposure still exists for children age 1–5 years old. We examined if blood lead levels were higher among non-Hispanic Black children and others compared to non-Hispanic White children. Methods: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999-2016 were used. Geometric mean blood lead levels (BLLs) were compared by race/ethnicity using log-transformed simple linear regression. Associations between race and elevated BLL were assessed using weighted Chi-square tests. Log-transformed multiple weighted linear regression was used to assess what factors affected BLLs. Results: A total of 6772 children were included in this study. In 1999–2000, the geometric mean BLL for non-Hispanic Black children was 3.08 μg/dL, compared to 2.03 μg/dL for non-Hispanic White children (p = 0.01). The difference in geometric mean BLL between non-Hispanic Black children and non-Hispanic White children continued to be statistically significant in later years (all p < 0.05) until 2015-2016 (0.89 μg/dL vs 0.74 μg/dL, p = 0.17). Log-transformed linear regression showed that being non-Hispanic Black and having low family income were independently associated with higher BLL. Conclusion: Although lead exposure in the general population continued to decline for all racial/ethnic groups, non-Hispanic Black children still had higher BLL than non-Hispanic White children. In more recent years, the racial/ethnic gap was lesser but persisted. Racial/ethnic disparity in childhood BLL could be partially explained by socio-economic factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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