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Blood lead levels in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review

Since the global phase-out of leaded petrol, reports have suggested that lead exposure remains substantial or is increasing in some low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, few studies have attempted to systematically assess blood lead levels over the full range of LMICs. This study is aimed to describe values for blood lead level in LMICs.

In this systematic review, PubMed was searched for studies published between Jan 1, 2010, and Oct 31, 2019, that reported blood lead levels in the 137 countries in World Bank LMIC groupings. Studies were reviewed for inclusion if they contained blood lead level data from human populations residing in any given country; comprised at least 30 participants; presented blood lead level data derived from venous, capillary, or umbilical cord samples of whole blood; had data that were collected after Dec 31, 2004; and were published in English. Data on blood lead level were extracted and pooled, as appropriate, to make country-specific estimates of the distribution of background blood lead levels among children and adults, along with information on specific sources of exposure where available. This study is registered with PROSPERO, number CRD42018108706.

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