Distribution of blood lead levels in schoolchildren in selected cape peninsula suburbs subsequent to reductions in petrol lead

  • Yasmin von Schimding
  • Angela Mathee
  • Priscilla Robertson
  • Nicolene Strauss
  • Maurice Kibel


Objective. To determine blood lead levels among children attending schools in selected Cape Peninsula suburbs, and to assess the impact of a reduction in the lead content of petrol.

Design. A cross-sectional analytical study of children's blood lead levels and associated risk factors.

Setting. Selected inner city, suburban, and peri-urban schools in the Cape Peninsula, expected to have differing levels of environmental exposure to lead.

Subjects. Grade 1 schoolchildren for whom prior written parental consent had been obtained, and who were present at school on the day of the study.

Outcame measures. Blood lead levels (μg / dl), associated with a wide range of potential risk factors.

Results. Median blood lead levels in suburbs varied from 14 to 16 μg/ dl, the lowest levels occurring in the peri-urban suburb and the highest in the inner city suburb. Within the inner city suburb of Woodstock, variations in mean blood lead concentrations among schools were substantial, varying from 13 to 19 μg/ dl. Overall, no change occurred in blood lead levels in this suburb subsequent to the lowering of the lead content of petrol.

Conclusion. Every effort should be made in South Africa to control sources of lead in the urban environment. The study will serve as a useful baseline against which to measure the impact on blood lead levels of further actions which have been taken to promote the use of lead-free petrol in South Africa.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135