Background: Lead-exposed workers may suffer adverse health effects under the currently regulated blood lead (BPb) levels. However, a probabilistic assessment about lead exposure-associated anemia risk is lacking. The goal of this study was to examine the association between lead exposure and anemia risk among factory workers in Taiwan.
Methods: We first collated BPb and indicators of hematopoietic function data via health examination records that included 533 male and 218 female lead-exposed workers between 2012 and 2014. We used benchmark dose (BMD) modeling to estimate the critical effect doses for detection of abnormal indicators. A risk-based probabilistic model was used to characterize the potential hazard of lead poisoning for job-specific workers by hazard index (HI). We applied Bayesian decision analysis to determine whether BMD could be implicated as a suitable BPb standard.
Results: Our results indicated that HI for total lead-exposed workers was 0.78 (95% confidence interval: 0.50-1.26) with risk occurrence probability of 11.1%. The abnormal risk of anemia indicators for male and female workers could be reduced, respectively, by 67-77% and 86-95% by adopting the suggested BPb standards of 25 and 15 μg/dL.
Conclusions: We conclude that cumulative exposure to lead in the workplace was significantly associated with anemia risk. This study suggests that current BPb standard needs to be better understood for the application of lead-exposed population protection in different scenarios to provide a novel standard for health management. Low-level lead exposure risk is an occupational and public health problem that should be paid more attention.