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  • Research Article
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Remediation of soil from lead-contaminated kindergartens reduces the amount of lead adhering to children's hands


Risk related to contaminated soil is based on the oral intake of soil and dust among children. This exposure is a consequence of mouthing behaviour, which exposes children to whatever adheres to their hands or toys. This project compared hand exposure of children to lead following outdoor playground activities before and after an intervention. The intervention consisted of replacement of contaminated top soil from the most intensively used playground areas and coverage of bare soil with wood chips or grass. We included children from three kindergartens: one with very low levels of lead in soil and two kindergartens with an average lead concentrations in soil of 100–200 mg/kg. Measurements of lead in soil 5–7 weeks after interventions in two kindergartens verified that the interventions had effectively reduced the potential exposure to lead from the most intensively used areas of the playgrounds. The average lead concentration in soil after intervention was below 10 mg/kg. We found a good agreement between the average concentration of lead in soil and the amount of lead on the hands of the children. Thus, the exposure marker worked and had the advantage compared to a blood sample, that we could evaluate the effect of the interventions shortly after they were accomplished using a noninvasive method. The amount of lead on the hands measured in one of the two kindergartens after the remediation (0.73 μg) was not significantly different from the control kindergarten (0.58 μg). Children from the second kindergarten still had higher median exposures to lead (1.29 μg), but a large overlap existed with several children having lower amounts of lead on their hands than some children from the control kindergarten. Large variations in the amount of lead on hands were observed. Variations may reflect true differences in concentrations of lead in soil, but may also reflect different behavior and playing patterns. Our study demonstrated, that it was possible in a cost-effective way to reduce exposure significantly and to verify the effect with a sensitive, noninvasive method shortly after the interventions had been implemented.

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The study was funded by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, programme on soil and ground water. We are grateful to Ulla Tegner, Anne Abildtrup and Dorrit Meincke for their assistance in collecting and analysing the samples.

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Correspondence to Jesper B Nielsen.

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Nielsen, J., Kristiansen, J. Remediation of soil from lead-contaminated kindergartens reduces the amount of lead adhering to children's hands. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 15, 282–288 (2005).

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