Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Original Article
  • Published:

Factors associated with lead exposure in Oaxaca, Mexico


Lead intoxication risks were studied in a community of ceramic folk art workers in Oaxaca, a southern state of Mexico, where the manufacture of low-temperature lead ceramic ware is a family tradition and often the only source of income. Variables such as household characteristics, occupation, and lead exposure risk factors were explored. Study participants' mean blood lead concentration was 43.8 μg/dl (range=8.4–99.6 μg/dl), which is over the WHO guideline of 40 μg/dl for removing workers from exposure and is the concentration over which renal damage is accelerated. Best predictors for high blood lead concentrations by multivariable regression analysis were: occupation (P<0.0001), gender (P=0.0002), and the use of glazed stoneware (P<0.0001). This model explained 18% of blood lead variation among the study group. Exposure appears to be primarily associated with antiquated pottery manufacturing techniques and the high degree of contamination prevailing at the production sites, which in most cases are their living quarters. This consequently affects the lead levels of the entire community.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  • CDC. Adult blood lead epidemiology and surveillance-United States, second quarter, 1996. MMWR 1996: 45: 919–920.

  • Coyer O. and Galvao Luiz A.C. Serie de Vigilancia 8 PLOMO. Centro Panamericano de Ecologia Humana y Salud, 1989: pp. 19–24.

  • Criterios de salud ambiental 3 Plomo. Centro Panamericano de Ecologia Humana y Salud, 1979: pp. 66–84.

  • Diario Oficial Mexicano, tomo CDLXXXII, No. 10, NOM.010-SSA1-1993. Gobierno Constitucional de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, México City, 1993.

  • Driscoll W., Mushak P., Garfias J., Rothenberg S.J., Reducing lead in gasoline. Mexico experience. Environ Sci Technol 1992: 26: 1702–1705.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Flores L.E., Alarcón C.J., Bobadilla J.L., et al. Factores asociados a los niveles de plomo en sangre en residentes de la ciudad de México. Salud Pública de Mex 1989: 31(5): 625–633.

    Google Scholar 

  • García Leal R., González Ramírez D., Molina Ballesteros G.X . Contaminación con plomo en el medio rural. In: Intoxicacion por plomo. Subdireccion General Medica, JMSS, Mexico. 1979: 129–142.

  • García de Alba J.E., Molina Ballesteros G, Cuento Sánchez L., et al. Niveles de plomo en alfareros. Higiene 1979: 29(3): 129–139.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hernández-Avila M., and Plazualos-Rendon E. (Eds). El plomo: Un problema de salud pública en México. Intoxicación por plomo en México: Prevención y Control. In: Perspectiva en Salud Publica 21. Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica, Cuernavaca, México, 1995. pp. 13–14.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hernández-Avila M., Romieu I., Ríos C., et al. Lead-glazed ceramics as major determinants of blood lead levels in Mexican women. Environ Health Perspect 1991: 94: 117–120.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Landrigan P.J . Current issues in the epidemiology and toxicology of occupational lead exposure. Environ Health Perspect 1990: 89: 61–66.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Landrigan P.J . Strategies for epidemiological studies of lead in bone in occupationally exposure populations. Environ Health Perspect 1991: 91: 81–86.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Lwanga S.K., Lemeshow S . Sample size determination in health studies. World Health Organization, Geneva, 1991.

  • Magdalena Rojas-López, Carlos Santos-Burgoa, Camilo Ríos, et al. Use of lead-glazed ceramics is the main factor associated to high lead in blood levels in two Mexican rural communities. J Toxicol Environ Health 1994: 42(1): 45–52.

    Google Scholar 

  • Molina G., Zuñiga M., Cárdenas A., et al. Concentración de plomo en sangre de los niños de familias alfareras. Bol Sanit Panam 1982: 92: 33–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Molina Ballesteros G., Zuñiga-Charles M., Cárdenas A., et al. Alteraciones psicológicas en niños expuestos a ambientales domésticos ricos en plomo. Bol Sanit Panam 1983: 94(3): 239–247.

    Google Scholar 

  • Molina Ballesteros G., Zuñiga-Charles M., Garcia J., et al. Exposición a plomo en una población de alfareros. Arch Invest Méd 1980: 11: 147–155.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Montoya Cabrera M., Moisés S., and Barquet R . Saturnismo por loza de barro vidriado. Rev Med IMSS 1978: 4: 249–257.

    Google Scholar 

  • Montoya M., Hernández A . Intoxicación por plomo. Origen de la exposición al metal en tres familias. Rev Med IMSS 1981: 19: 337–339.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nolan C.V., Shaikn Z.A . Lead nephrotoxicity and associated disorder: biochemical mechanisms. Toxicology 1992: 73: 127–146.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Nuwayhid I., McPhaul K., Bu-Khuzam R., Duh S.H., Christenson R.H., Keogh J.P . Determinants of elevated blood lead levels among working men in Greater Beirut. J Med Liban 2001: 49(3): 132–139.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Olaiz G., Rojas R., Fortoul T.I., et al. High blood lead levels in ceramic Folk Art Workes in Michoacan, México. Arch Environ Health 1997: 52(1): 51–55.

    Google Scholar 

  • Romieu I., Lacasna M., McConnell R., and the Lead Research Group of the Pan-American Health Organization. Lead Exposure in Latin America and the Caribbean. Environ Health Perspect 1997: 105: 398–405.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Romieu I., Palazuelos E., Hernández-Avila M., et al. Sources of lead exposure in Mexico City. Environ Health Perspect 1994: 102: 384–389.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Romieu I., Palazuelos E., Meneses F., et al. Vehicular traffic as a determinant of blood-lead leves in children: a pilot study in Mexico City. Arch Environ Health 1992: 47(4): 246–249.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ruiz Sandoval S.G., Envenenamiento lento por plomo en los habitantes de Oaxaca. Gac Med Mex 1878: 13: 393–403.

    Google Scholar 

  • Silbergeld E.K . Implications of new data on lead toxicity for managing and preventing exposure. Environ Health Perspect 1990: 89: 49–59.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Watanabe T., Kasahara M., Nakatsuka H., Ikeda M . Cadmium and lead contents of cigarettes produced in various areas of the world. Sci Total Environ 1987: 66: 29–37.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • WHO. WHO Environmental Health Criteria Series No. 85: Lead, Geneva. Environmental Aspects. 1989: 106 pp. ISBN 92 4 1542853

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rojas-Martínez Rosalba.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Isidra, HS., Laura R, MA., Rosalba, RM. et al. Factors associated with lead exposure in Oaxaca, Mexico. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 13, 341–347 (2003).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


This article is cited by


Quick links