Reducing the risks of children living near the site of a former lead smeltery

Kimmo Louekari (Corresponding Author), Ulla-Maija Mroueh, Leena Maidell-Munster, S. Valkonen, T. Tuomi, K. Savolainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The sources of lead exposure, soil, household dust, diet and ambient air near a former lead smeltery were studied. The blood lead level of small children was also determined. The aim of the study was to define, based primarily on blood lead measurements, whether children living in the contaminated area may be at risk. Within 500 m from the site of the smeltery, there were several areas where the Finnish limit value for soil Pb, i.e. 300 mg/kg, was exceeded. In the recently built areas, the surface soil has been replaced and soil remediation has taken place in schoolyards and the playgrounds of children's day-care centres. Lead content in household dust was clearly elevated in the contaminated areas. In approximately 20 years, after the smeltery was closed in 1984, the lead concentrations of the fruits and berries in local gardens have decreased to one-tenth. In some samples, the limit values are still exceeded. The lead concentration in ambient air is now 50 times lower than in the 1970s. The blood lead level of the children living in the area is slightly but statistically significantly higher than that of the children in the control areas. The critical blood lead level, i.e. 10 μg/100 ml, was not exceeded in any of the children examined. The average and maximum lead concentrations of 63 analysed blood samples were 2.2 and 5 μg/100 ml, respectively. In contrast, the average and maximum blood lead levels of school children in 1981 were 6.7 and 13.0 μg/100 ml, respectively. The risk reduction measures undertaken during the past 20 years are described.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-75
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2004
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • children
  • blood lead
  • soil
  • indoor dust
  • food
  • former smeltery


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