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Your Environment. Your Health.

Bone Lead Linked to Glaucoma

Sung Kyun Park, Sc.D.
University of Michigan
R01ES005257, K01ES016587, P30ES017885

Higher bone lead levels are associated with an increased risk of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) according to an NIEHS-funded study. POAG is the most common form of glaucoma, affecting about three million Americans.

The 634 POAG-free men examined by the researchers had lead measurements taken from their patella and tibia bones between January 1991 and December 1999, and underwent standard evaluations by optometrists until December 2014. The researchers identified 44 cases of POAG by the end of follow-up. They found that men with the top half of patella lead levels had a more than three times higher risk of developing POAG compared with those in the lowest quartile of lead levels during the 15 years of follow-up. A ten-fold increase in patella lead level was associated with a more than a five-fold higher risk of POAG during the same time period. Similar, but slightly weaker, associations were observed for lead found in the tibia.

The study provided evidence that lead found in bone might be an important risk factor for POAG in a U.S. population of men. According to the authors, the findings contributed additional evidence of long-term health effects from environmental lead exposure, which might help strengthen public awareness of lead-related ocular diseases.

Citation: Wang W, Moroi S, Bakulski K, Mukherjee B, Weisskopf MG, Schaumberg D, Sparrow D, Vokonas PS, Hu H, Park SK. 2018. Bone lead levels and risk of incident primary open-angle glaucoma: The VA Normative Aging Study. Environ Health Perspect 126(8):087002.

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