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Alluvial and riparian soils as major sources of lead exposure in young children in the Philippines: the role of floods


The objective of this paper was to determine the prevalence and sources of high lead (Pb) exposure among children in Bulacan, Philippines. A total of 150 children (6–7 years old) and their caregivers were studied. Lead was analyzed in children hair and deciduous teeth. Sources of lead exposure were determined by caregiver interview and Pb analysis of house soil, drinking faucet water, air, and water from seven Bulacan rivers. Lead was positive in 91.3 % of children’s hair (MC or median concentration = 8.9 μg/g; range = 0–38.29), in 46.2 % of the teeth (MC = 0.000 μg/mg in positive samples; range = 0.00–0.020), in 100 % of soil (MC = 27.06 mg/kg; range = 3.05–1155.80), in 21.1 % of air (MC = 0 μg/Ncm; range = 0–0.10), in 4 % of house, faucet water (MC = 0.0 ppm; range = 0–40). There was a significant correlation (Spearman’s rho) between Pb in children’s hair and soil (r = 0.195; p = 0.017) and between Pb in house water and outdoor air (r = 0.616; p = 0.005). There is no significant correlation between Pb in children’s hair and teeth. None of the potential sources of Pb from interview were related to lead exposure in the children. Water from seven Bulacan rivers was 100 % positive for lead (MC = 70.00 ppb; range = 30–90). Widespread flooding with river overflow occurred in Bulacan in 2009 which likely caused lead contamination of the soil. There was no significant difference in the lead concentration of the soil whether near or far from the river (p = 0.205, Mann-Whitney U test). High lead exposure in children in Bulacan is likely from soil contaminated by lead-polluted rivers during flooding. In areas where flooding is common, alluvial and riparian soils from polluted rivers are important sources of lead exposure in children.

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We would like to thank Lilibeth Avendano, Rizza Villavicencio, Ruby Briones, Cecilia Santiago, and Melody Dizon for their valuable help in this study.

Funding source

This study was supported by a grant from the Institute of Child Health and Human Development, United States National Institutes of Health (1R01HD039428).

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Correspondence to Enrique M. Ostrea.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Ostrea, E.M., Ostrea, A.M., Villanueva-Uy, M.E. et al. Alluvial and riparian soils as major sources of lead exposure in young children in the Philippines: the role of floods. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 5082–5091 (2015).

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  • Lead questionnaire
  • Lead in drinking water
  • Lead in air
  • Lead in river water
  • Lead in soil
  • Lead in children’s hair