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Childhood Lead Exposure in the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and Jordan: Results from the Middle Eastern Regional Cooperation Project, 1996-2000

In the Middle East, the major sources of lead exposure have been leaded gasoline, lead-contaminated flour from traditional stone mills, focal exposures from small battery plants and smelters, and kohl (blue color) in cosmetics. In 1998–2000, we measured blood lead (PbB) levels in children 2–6 years of age in Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority (n = 1478), using a fingerstick method. Mean (peak; percentage > 10 μg/dL) PbB levels in Israel (n = 317), the West Bank (n = 344), Jordan (n = 382), and Gaza (n = 435) were 3.2 μg/dL (18.2; 2.2%), 4.2 μg/dL (25.7; 5.2%), 3.2 μg/dL (39.3; < 1%), and 8.6 μg/dL (> 80.0; 17.2%), respectively. High levels in Gaza were all among children living near a battery factory. The findings, taken together with data on time trends in lead emissions and in PbB in children in previous years, indicate the benefits from phasing out of leaded gasoline but state the case for further reductions and investigation of hot spots. The project demonstrated the benefits of regional cooperation in planning and carrying out a jointly designed project.