Racial/ethnic differences in childhood blood lead levels among children <72 months of age in the united states: A systematic review of the literature

Brandi M. White, Heather Shaw Bonilha, Charles Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Childhood lead poisoning is a serious public health problem with long-term adverse effects. Healthy People 2020’s environmental health objective aims to reduce childhood blood lead levels; however, efforts may be hindered by potential racial/ethnic differences. Recent recommendations have lowered the blood lead reference level. This review examined racial/ethnic differences in blood lead levels among children under 6 years of age. We completed a search of PubMed, CINAHL, and PsycINFO databases for published works from 2002 to 2012. We identified studies that reported blood lead levels and the race/ethnicity of at least two groups. Ten studies met inclusion criteria for the review. Blood lead levels were most frequently reported for black, white, and Hispanic children. Six studies examined levels between blacks, whites, and Hispanics and two between blacks and whites. Studies reporting mean lead levels among black, whites, and Hispanics found that blacks had the highest mean blood lead level. Additionally, studies reporting blood lead ranges found that black children were more likely to have elevated levels. Studies suggest that black children have higher blood lead levels compared to other racial/ethnic groups. Future studies are warranted to obtain ample sample sizes for several racial/ethnic groups to further examine differences in lead levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-153
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of racial and ethnic health disparities
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 15 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2015.


  • Childhood blood lead levels
  • Environmental public health
  • Racial and ethnic disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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