Hygiene- and food-related behaviors associated with blood lead levels of young children from lead-contaminated homes

Natalie C.G. Freeman, Adrienne Ettinger, Maurice Berry, George Rhoads

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37 Scopus citations


Exposures associated with blood lead levels greater than 40 μg/dL in young children who live in lead-contaminated homes have been well documented. As the action level for lead is reduced, activities that contribute to lower levels of lead exposure must be identified. A child's eating habits and related hygiene behaviors are major hand-to-mouth activities that have been largely overlooked in the study of activities contributing to lead ingestion. To examine this subject, a survey questionnaire for caretakers of young children was developed. The objective of the questionnaire was to characterize food-related activities of young children and to identify behavioral indicators of lead exposure. The association between food- and hygiene-related behaviors and blood lead levels among 60 children between 13 and 36 months old with low-to-moderate blood lead levels was examined in homes that had been identified as containing lead in paint and house dust. The participants were enrolled in the Children's Lead Exposure and Reduction Study in Jersey City, New Jersey. Blood lead levels of children 13-24 months old did not differ significantly from those of children 25-36 months of age (10.1 and 11.3 μg/dL, respectively). Differences in eating habits and hygiene behaviors were found for the two age groups. Bivariate analyses found that the primary behavioral indicators of blood lead levels were determined by whether the child prepared his/her own food and whether the child ate food that had been on the floor. This factor was dependent on age. Children 13-24 months old had significantly elevated blood lead levels if these behaviors were exhibited. No significant differences were found, however for children 25-36 months old. Several food-related habits were also associated with blood lead levels. Eating hamburgers, doughnuts, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cold cuts were associated with elevated blood lead levels in 13-24-month-old children, while eating vitamins, raw vegetables, and yogurt were associated with lower blood lead levels in this age group. For children 25-36 months old, eating hamburgers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was associated with elevated blood lead levels, while yogurt consumption was associated with lower blood lead levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-118
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of exposure analysis and environmental epidemiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Food consumption survey
  • Hygiene activities
  • Lead (Pb)


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