BPSU - Raised blood lead levels in children


Surveillance of raised blood levels in children concluded its surveillance period in June 2012 and is in the process of collecting and analysing data. The study team are hoping to understand the incidence, clinical presentation, identify common sources of exposure and develop guidance for clinicians and public health practitioners.

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Lead investigator 

Dr. R Ruggles 

Email: slic@hpa.org.uk
Website: Surveillance of Lead in Children study           


  • Public health interventions have succeeded in removing most sources of lead from the environment.
  • A small proportion of children continue to be exposed to harmful levels of lead, usually in the home.
  • Exposure to lead in children is associated with a range of adverse health effects, from sub-clinical neurodevelopmental impairment to encephalitis.
  • There are no reliable data on the incidence or prevalence of clinically significant lead toxicity or the prevalence of elevated blood lead concentrations in children in the UK.
  • Currently, the UK has no formal monitoring of childhood blood lead concentrations within laboratory or clinical systems and the public health response to such cases is likely to be sub-optimal.
  • A recent case series indicates that significant obstacles are often encountered in the effective and timely management of cases.
  • The aim of this study is to provide an estimate of the incidence of elevated blood lead concentrations in children.
  • The study will provide important information on the management of cases, both clinically and in terms of the public health response.         

Case defintion: Any child, less than 16 years of agge, with a blood lad concentration reported by the laboratory of as more than or equal to 10µg/dL (or 0.48µmol/L), with ot without any of the accepted clinical signs and sumptoms of lead toxicity.

Reporting instructions: Please report any new cases you have seen in the last month which meet the surveillance definiton.

Duration: June 2010 – June 2012 inclusive (with follow-up until July 2013)  

Funding: Public Health England       

Ethical approval: This study has been approved by the Riverside REC (Ref: 10/H0706/10) and has Section 251 NIGB permission under HPA reference (PIAG 03-(c)/2001).

Further information