BACKGROUND: Low blood lead levels previously thought to pose no health risks may have an adverse impact on the cognitive development of children. This concern has given rise to new regulatory restrictions upon lead metal containing products intended for child use. However few reliable experimental testing methods to estimate exposure levels from these materials are available.
METHODS: The present work describes a migration test using a mimetic saliva fluid to estimate the chronic exposure of children to metals such as lead while mouthing metallic objects. The surrogate saliva medium was composed of: 150 mM NaCl, 0.16% porcine Mucin and 5 mM buffer MOPS, adjusted to pH 7.2. Alloys samples, in the form of polished metallic disc of known surface area, were subjected to an eight hours test.
RESULTS: Two whitemetal alloys Sn/Pb/Sb/Cu and three brass alloys Cu/Zn/Pb were tested using the saliva migration protocol. In the case of the whitemetal alloys, first order release kinetics resulting in the release of 0.03 and 0.51 μg lead/cm2 after 8 hours of tests were observed, for lead contents of 0.05-0.07% and 5.5%, respectively. Brasses exhibited linear incremental release rates of 0.043, 0.175 and 0.243 μg lead/cm2h for lead contents of 0.1-0.2%, 1.7-2.2% and 3.1-3.5%, respectively. The linear regression analysis of lead release rates relative to Pb content in brasses yielded a slope of 0.08 μg lead/cm2h%Pb (r2 = 0.92). Lead release rates were used to estimate the mean daily mouthing exposure of a child to lead, according to age-specific estimates of mouthing time behavior. Calculated daily intakes were used as oral inputs for the IEUBK toxicokinetic model, predicting only marginal changes in blood lead levels (0.2 μg lead/dL or less) for children aged 0.5 to 1 years old exposed to either class of alloy.
CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study as a whole support the use of migration data of metal ions, rather than total metal content, to estimate health risk from exposure to metals and metal alloys substances in children.
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