Heart rate variability and peripheral nerve conduction velocity in relation to blood lead in newly hired lead workers

Cai-Guo Yu, Fang-Fei Wei, Wen-Yi Yang, Zhen-Yu Zhang, Blerim Mujaj, Lutgarde Thijs, Ying-Mei Feng, Jan A. Staessen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives Previous studies relating nervous activity to blood lead (BL) levels have limited relevance, because over time environmental and occupational exposure substantially dropped. We investigated the association of heart rate variability (HRV) and median nerve conduction velocity (NCV) with BL using the baseline measurements collected in the Study for Promotion of Health in Recycling Lead (NCT02243904). Methods I n 328 newly hired men (mean age 28.3 years; participation rate 82.7%), we derived HRV measures (power expressed in normalised units (nu) in the high-frequency (HF) and low-frequency (LF) domains, and LF/HF) prior to long-term occupational lead exposure. Five-minute ECG recordings, obtained in the supine and standing positions, were analysed by Fourier transform or autoregressive modelling, using Cardiax software. Motor NCV was measured at the median nerve by a handheld device (Brevio Nerve Conduction Monitoring System, NeuMed, West Trenton, NJ, USA). BL was determined by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Results Mean BL was 4.54 mu g/dL (IQR 2.60-8.90 mu g/ dL). Mean supine and standing values of LF, HF and LF/ HF were 50.5 and 21.1 nu and 2.63, and 59.7 and 10.9 nu and 6.31, respectively. Orthostatic stress decreased HF and increased LF (p<0.001). NCV averaged 3.74 m/s. Analyses across thirds of the BL distribution and multivariable-adjusted regression analyses failed to demonstrate any association of HRV or NCV with BL. Conclusions A t the exposure levels observed in our study, autonomous nervous activity and NCV were not associated with BL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-388
Number of pages7
JournalOccupational and Environmental Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019




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