Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 17, Issue 7, pp 1347–1354 | Cite as

Elevated blood lead levels and cytogenetic markers in buccal epithelial cells of painters in India

Genotoxicity in painters exposed to lead containing paints
  • Mohd Imran Khan
  • Iqbal Ahmad
  • Abbas Ali MahdiEmail author
  • Mohd Javed Akhtar
  • Najmul Islam
  • Mohd Ashquin
  • Thuppil Venkatesh
Research Article


Background, aim, and scope

Lead, a major contaminant, is highly used in paint manufacturing due to its anticorrosive properties. Recent reports indicated high lead content among Indian paints used for commercial purposes. Painters are continuously exposed to these lead containing paints during painting of both commercial as well as residential buildings. Lead is well-known for its genotoxicty in occupational workers; however, in Indian painters the genotoxic effects of lead have not been reported to date. Therefore we aimed to study the genotoxic end points in painters due to their long-term exposure to these high lead-containing Indian paints.

Materials and methods

Study group selection was made after a questionnaire administration, which included questions about lifestyle and medical history to exclude exposure to the other potential sources of genotoxics. Blood and buccal cell samples were obtained from 30 male painters and from a similar number of age-matched controls of same location with no occupational exposure to lead. Blood lead levels (Pb-B) were measured in painters and controls. Micronucleus (MN) frequencies and nuclear changes, i.e., karyorrhexis, karyolysis, broken egg, and binucleated, were investigated in buccal epithelial cells.


Painters had significantly (P < 0.01) greater lead levels in blood than the control group. MN frequencies and nuclear changes in buccal epithelial cells were also significantly (P < 0.01) elevated in painters as compared with control subjects. Regression analysis also revealed significant (P < 0.01) association of Pb-B with all the genotoxic endpoints in painters. Cytogenetic damage was significantly associated with Pb-B as no other co-founding factors (smoking, alcohols) showed significant difference between both groups.


Lead is widely used in paints which may serve as potential source of exposure among painters due to their long-term engagement with paints. Our results clearly demonstrated genotoxicity among the exposed population as evident from increase micronucleus frequencies, frequent nuclear changes, and apoptosis. Many studies had previously related nuclear change events in buccal epithelial cells with the progression of different carcinomas. Furthermore in-depth investigations with larger sample size are needed to provide evidence to this effect.


Here, we report cytogenetic toxicity to the exposed population by the high lead containing paints from India for the first time. Frequent, high and unregulated use of lead in paints may cause genetic mutation and may accelerate cytogenetic damage which may further lead to different carcinomas in painters. These findings need to be considered and necessary steps should be taken to protect the occupational workers engaged with these high lead-containing paints.


The use of lead in paints is completely unregulated in India and routine surveillance of paints for lead content is still lacking. These paints are readily available in markets and are also used in other products (jewelry, miniblinds) which could be exported to other countries including United States and Europe. Serious consideration should be given to the inclusion of regulations and bans on the use of lead in paints. Moreover, attention should also be paid towards the use of various protective measures (face-masks, hand gloves, and separate clothes) by the workers as safe work practices during working periods.


Karyorrhexis Karyolysis Lead toxicity Nuclear changes Micronucleus Paints Painters 



We would like to thank the study subjects for their cooperation, understanding, and support which made this study possible. We would also like to thank Dr. Farzana Mahdi (Director Academics) Era’s Lucknow Medical College and Hospital for her careful reading of the manuscript and Mr. M.P.S. Negi (Biometry and Statistics Division) for his help in the statistical analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohd Imran Khan
    • 1
  • Iqbal Ahmad
    • 2
  • Abbas Ali Mahdi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mohd Javed Akhtar
    • 2
  • Najmul Islam
    • 3
  • Mohd Ashquin
    • 2
  • Thuppil Venkatesh
    • 4
  1. 1.National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India, U.P., Department of BiochemistryC.S.M. Medical UniversityLucknowIndia
  2. 2.Fibre Toxicology LabIndian Institute of Toxicology ResearchLucknowIndia
  3. 3.Department of BiochemistryJ.N. Medical CollegeAligarhIndia
  4. 4.National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in IndiaSt John’s Medical CollegeBangaloreIndia

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