Publications : 2020

Brown L., Lynch M, Belova A, Klein R, Chiger A. 2020. Developing a health impact model for adult lead exposure and cardiovascular disease mortality. Environ Health Persp 128:9,



Lead (Pb) is a highly toxic pollutant. Evidence suggests it is associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related mortality.


We present a rigorous approach for identifying concentration–response functions that relate adult Pb exposures to CVD mortality to inform a health impact model (HIM). We then use the model in a proof-of-concept example.


Building on previously conducted government literature reviews and a de novo supplemental literature review, we compiled and evaluated the available data on Pb and CVD mortality in humans. We applied a set of predefined selection criteria to identify studies that would be most useful in understanding the impact of Pb exposure on CVD mortality risk in adults. Once we identified the studies, we derived a HIM and used each study’s concentration–response function in a proof-of-concept example.


Our literature search identified 15 studies for full-text review. Of those 15 studies, 4 fit our criteria for use in the HIM. Using population and CVD mortality rates for 40- to 80-y-olds in 2014, we estimated that 34,000–99,000 deaths have been avoided due to the lowering of blood Pb levels from 1999 to 2014. Based on these values we estimated that approximately 16%–46% of the decreased CVD-related death rate from 1999 to 2014 may be attributable to decreased blood Pb levels.


Our results demonstrate that decreases in Pb exposure can result in large benefits for the adult population. We have provided a HIM that can be used in a variety of applications from burden-of-disease estimates to regulatory impact assessments and have demonstrated its sensitivity to the choice of concentration–response function.