Lead exposure in young children over a 5-year period from urban environments using alternative exposure measures with the US EPA IEUBK model – A trial

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The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Integrated Exposure Uptake Biokinetic (IEUBK) model has been widely used to predict blood lead (PbB) levels in children especially around industrial sites. Exposure variables have strongly focussed on the major contribution of lead (Pb) in soil and interior dust to total intake and, in many studies, site-specific data for air, water, diet and measured PbB were not available. We have applied the IEUBK model to a comprehensive data set, including measured PbB, for 108 children monitored over a 5-year period in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. To use this data set, we have substituted available data (with or without modification) for standard inputs as needed. For example, as an alternative measure for soil Pb concentration (μg/g), we have substituted exterior dust sweepings Pb concentration (μg/g). As alternative measures for interior dust Pb concentration (μg/g) we have used 1) 30-day cumulative petri dish deposition data (PDD) (as μg Pb/m2/30days), or 2) hand wipe data (as μg Pb/hand). For comparison, simulations were also undertaken with estimates of dust Pb concentration derived from a prior regression of dust Pb concentration (μg/g) on dust Pb loading (μg/ft2) as concentration is the unit specified for the Model. Simulations for each subject using observed data aggregated over the 5-year interval of the study, the most usual application of the IEUBK model, showed using Wilcoxon tests that there was a significant difference between the observed values and the values predicted by the Model containing soil with hand wipes (p < 0.001), and soil and PDD (p = 0.026) but not those for the other two sets of predictors, based on sweepings and PDD or sweepings and wipes. Overall, simulations of the Model using alternative exposure measures of petri dish dust (and possibly hand wipes) instead of vacuum cleaner dust and dust sweepings instead of soil provide predicted PbB which are generally consistent with each other and observed values. The predicted geometric mean PbBs were 2.17 (± 1.24) μg/dL for soil with PDD, 1.95 (± 1.17) μg/dL for soil with hand wipes, 2.36 (± 1.75) μg/dL for sweepings with PDD, and 2.15 (± 1.69) for sweepings with hand wipes. These results are in good agreement with the observed geometric mean PbB of 2.46 (± 0.99) μg/dL. In contrast to all other IEUBK model studies to our knowledge, we have stratified the data over the age ranges from 1 to 5 years. The median of the predicted values was lower than that for the observed values for every combination of age and set of measures; in some cases, the difference was statistically significant. The differences between observed and predicted PbB tended to be greatest for the soil plus wipes measure and for the oldest age group. Use of ‘default dust’ values calculated from the site-specific soil values, a common application of the IEUBK model, results in predicted PbB about 22% (range 0 to 52%) higher than those from soil with PDD data sets. Geometric mean contributions estimated from the Model to total Pb intake for a child aged 1–2 years was 0.09% for air, 42% for diet, 5.3% for water and 42% for soil and dust. Our results indicate that it is feasible to use alternative measures of soil and dust exposure to provide reliable predictions of PbB in urban environments.

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