Threshold effect in lead-induced peripheral neuropathy

Joel Schwartz, Philip J. Landrigan, Robert G. Feldman, Ellen K. Silbergeld, Edward L. Baker, Ian H. von Lindern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


We previously demonstrated a negative correlation between blood lead level and motor nerve conduction velocity in 202 asymptomatic 5 to 9-year-old children living near a lead smelter in Idaho. Blood lead levels ranged from 13 to 97 μg/dL. To determine whether a threshold exists between blood lead level and maximal motor nerve conduction velocity, we conducted three regression analyses on these data: a "hockey stick" regression, a logistic regression, and a quadratic regression. We found evidence for a threshold in all three analyses: at a blood level of 30 μg/dL in the "hockey stick" regression, at 20 μg/dL in the logistic, and at 25 to 30 μg/dL in the quadratic. Neither age, sex, socioeconomic status, nor duration of residence near the smeiter significantly modified the relationship. These analyses confirm that asymptomatic increased lead absorption causes slowing of nerve conduction, but they also indicate that measurement of maximal motor nerve conduction velocity is an insensitive screen for low-level lead toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-17
Number of pages6
JournalThe Journal of pediatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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