Center for Health Policy and Research (CHPR) Publications


Environmental lead exposure and otoacoustic emissions in Andean children

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Pediatrics; Shriver Center; Center for Health Policy and Research; Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Auditory Threshold; Child; Cross-Sectional Studies; Ear, Inner; Ecuador; Environmental Exposure; Female; Hair Cells, Auditory, Outer; Hearing; Humans; Lead; Lead Poisoning, Nervous System,; Childhood; Male; Otoacoustic Emissions, Spontaneous; Otoscopy; Prevalence; Rural Health; Spectrophotometry, Atomic


Disorders of Environmental Origin | Environmental Public Health | Medical Toxicology | Pediatrics | Pharmacology, Toxicology and Environmental Health | Speech Pathology and Audiology


Studies relating sensory hearing impairment to lead (Pb) exposure in children have presented inconsistent results. The objective of this study was to measure distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE), sounds emanating from the outer hair cells of the inner ear, in Pb-exposed children to determine the effects of Pb poisoning on the inner ear. DPOAE were recorded for 9 f(2) frequencies from 1187 to 7625 Hz on 102 ears of 53 Pb-exposed children (aged 6-16 yr) residing in Pb-contaminated environments in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador where Pb glazing of ceramics is the primary livelihood. Blood lead (PbB) levels ranged from 4.2 to 94.3 mug/dl (mean: 37.7; SD: 25.7; median: 36.4). The median PbB level was markedly higher than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) 10-mug/dl action level. Spearman rho correlation analyses of the relation between PbB level and DPOAE amplitude and between PbB level and DPOAE signal-to-noise ratio revealed no significant associations at any of the f(2) frequencies tested. In addition, no significant correlation (Spearman rho) between PbB level and hearing sensitivity for 6 pure-tone test frequencies from 1000 to 8000 Hz was found. Although the study group was found to have abnormally elevated PbB levels, in contrast to some earlier reports, the results of the current study showed no consistent Pb-induced sensory effects on the cochlea of Pb-intoxicated children.

DOI of Published Version



Buchanan LH, Counter SA, Ortega F. Environmental lead exposure and otoacoustic emissions in Andean children. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2011;74(19):1280-93. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2011.587106. PubMed PMID: 21830857; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3490688. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part A

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed