National Poisons Information Service

A service commissioned by Public Health England




Members of the public

seeking specific

information on poisons

should contact:


In England and Wales:

NHS 111 - dial 111


In Scotland:

NHS 24 - dial 111


In N Ireland:

Contact your local GP or

pharmacist during

normal hours; click here

(www.gpoutofhours for GP

services Out-of-Hours.


In Republic of Ireland:

01 809 2166



professionals seeking

poisons information

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Lead exposures

The NPIS has published data on lead exposures reported to the service in 2008-2010.1 The NPIS received 418 telephone enquiries regarding 359 patients exposed to lead over this period.


In 274 of these 359 patients (76.3%) the exposure was non-occupational and the most common source of lead was from paint-stripping (n = 58). The two main routes of non-occupational exposure were ingestion (n = 121) and inhalation (n = 109). Seventy-four of the 274 patients exposed non-occupationally were children ≤ 4 years of age, the majority of whom (n = 54) were exposed by ingestion; 15 were exposed by inhalation. The mean (± SD) blood lead concentrations in the children exposed by ingestion and inhalation respectively were 44.3 ± 20.4 μg/dL (n = 12) and 15.78 ± 6.39 μg/dL (n = 5) [p < 0.01].


Eighty-five exposures were occupational with inhalation (n = 79) being the commonest route of exposure; painters and decorators were the most common occupational group involved (n = 22). The age group with the highest number of occupationally exposed patients was 30–39 years (n = 26); this group accounted for 31% of the total occupational exposures.


Lead concentrations are available in 74 of the 274 patients (27.0%) exposed non-occupationally and in 54 of the 85 patients (63.5%) exposed occupationally. The highest blood lead concentrations were 198 μg/dL (non-occupational group) and 149 μg/dL (occupational group). The mean (± SD) blood lead concentrations in the non-occupational and occupational groups respectively were 36.1 ± 34.4 μg/dL (n = 74) and 51.5 ± 29.9 μg/dL (n = 54) [p < 0.01]. Twenty-six of the 54 patients occupationally exposed had blood-lead concentrations ≥ 50 μg/dL, which represents a minority of the 672 workers with blood lead concentrations ≥ 50 μg/dL reported to the UK Health and Safety Executive over the same period. Chelation therapy was recommended or had been given previously in 21 patients; 14 of these were exposed non-occupationally.


Despite the toxicity of lead being well known, lead exposure remains a cause of morbidity not only in industry but also to members of the public, particularly to children.



  1. Brackenridge D, Bradberry SM, Vale JA. Non-occupational and occupational lead exposures reported to the UK National Poisons Information Service 2008 – 2010. Clin Toxicol 2012; 50: 307.


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