Lead: Ongoing public and occupational health issues in vulnerable populations: A case study

I. Kar-Purkayastha*, S. Balasegaram, D. Sen, A. J. Rehman, P. I. Dargan, D. Johnston, A. Raynal, D. M. Wood, A. Abrahams, R. Kamanyire, Virginia Murray, R. Cordery

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Lead has been recognized increasingly as a public health risk, although with the introduction of wide-ranging occupational and public health measures, levels of blood lead in the general population of the UK and other developed nations have been in decline in recent years. Nonetheless, cases of lead poisoning still occur. Methods: We report on a large cluster of exposed lead workers and their families, including several children. The focus of the occupational and public health investigations was to identify the different groups at risk and the pathways by which potential exposures were taking place. Results: Lead in the workplace was found to account for the raised blood lead levels amongst the workers with exposure occurring as a result of insufficient demarcation between 'clean' and 'dirty' areas, and from contamination of personal belongings with lead. Furthermore, there was evidence of para-occupational exposure of family members. Conclusions: The successful control of lead in this case required multidisciplinary working. Efforts included extensive workplace controls, along with the education and care of workers and their families, though complicated by lack of familiarity with the UK health service amongst the affected groups, language barriers, underlying low levels of literacy and high mobility.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)176-182
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Public Health (United Kingdom)
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    1Centre for Radiation, Chemicals and Environmental Hazards London, Health Protection Agency, London SW1W 9SZ, UK 2North East and North Central London Health Protection Unit, Health Protection Agency, London SW1W 9SZ, UK 3Health and Safety Executive, Bootle, Merseyside, UK 4Medical and Occupational Health Services, 117a Harley Street, London W1G 6AT, UK 5Guy’s and St Thomas’NHS Foundation Trust and King’s Health Partners, London SE1 9RT, UK Address correspondence to I. Kar-Purkayastha, E-mail: ishanik@doctors.org.uk


    • occupational diseases
    • public health
    • social determinants


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