Physiology of Lead

Lead is absorbed through both the lungs and the gastrointestinal tract. When it enters the systemic circulation, it is bound to erythrocytes (99%). Three compartments comprise the lead body burden:

1. The blood and other rapidly exchanging tissues

2. The soft tissues

3. Bone, which stores 90% of the body burden and has a half-life of 20 years (18)

Lead is excreted primarily through the kidneys (75%) but can also be identified in bile, sweat, hair, and nails. Table 9.2 summarizes the lowest observable effects of inorganic lead in pediatric and adult populations (19).

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