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Environmental health in minority and other underserved populations: Benign methods for identifying lead hazards at day care centres of New Orleans


This study tests the hypothesis that exterior sources of lead dust are more important than interior sources in the route of exposure of children. Benign field methods were used to distinguish between potential and actual lead exposure problems. Utilising hand wipe and surface wipe techniques, hand and environmental samples were obtained from selected day care centres at different locations within New Orleans. Previous research has shown that soil lead is determined by location within the city. Private and public day care centres were selected from inner and outer city areas to estimate the extent of hand lead exposure. To measure and identify the extent of environmental lead exposure, hand wipes were taken before and after playing outdoors. Results of preliminary findings show that outdoor lead dust is a more potent contaminant of hands than indoor lead dust. An association was found between the amount of lead on children's hands after playing outdoors and the lead content in the exterior dust and soil. Although two girls out of forty children had exceptionally high hand lead quantities after playing outdoors, in general, boys have higher hand lead levels than girls. The private inner-city day care centre had a severe contamination problem in its outdoor play area. By contrast, the outdoor play area of the public inner city day care centre is of such a high quality that the quantity of lead dust is independent of location in the city.

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Correspondence to H. W. Mielke.

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Viverette, L., Mielke, H.W., Brisco, M. et al. Environmental health in minority and other underserved populations: Benign methods for identifying lead hazards at day care centres of New Orleans. Environ Geochem Health 18, 41–45 (1996).

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  • lead dust
  • soil lead
  • hand lead
  • urban lead hazards
  • environmental health
  • primary lead prevention