APH 2010, 68, 30-41:

Blood lead levels in the Kinshasa population: a pilot study

Tuakuila J, Mbuyi F, Kabamba M, Lantin A-C, Lison D, Hoet P

Keywords: leaded gasoline, Kinshasa, human exposure, saturnism, blood lead

Leadedgasoline and lead paints are still in use in the Democratic Republic of Congo but data on blood lead levels in the general population are not available. We evaluated the Pb impregnation in children and adults (0 - 70 years old) in Kinshasa.

Blood lead was measured by atomic absorption in a sample of 485 healthy people (268 men and 217 women) living in Kinshasa between May 2003 and June 2004.

Geometric mean blood lead was 120 µg/L (95% CI: 115 -125), with a higher concentration in men than in women (127 vs 114 µg/L, p=0.01). Sixty-three percent of children aged less than 6 years old presented blood lead levels above the 100 µg threshold. In the adult population, occupations with a potential risk of exposure to gasoline (car mechanics or garage owners, taxi drivers, conveyors and gas pump attendants) were associated with an extra blood lead of about 65µg/L.

This study indicates a relatively important Pb impregnation of the Kinshasa population. It demonstrates the existence of a major public health issue requiring corrective actions and the implementation of an appropriate regulation.