Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES)

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The goal of the ABLES program is to examine the extent of workplace lead exposure in adults through measurement of blood lead levels. This goal is identical to the Occupational Safety and Health Objective 7 in Healthy People 2020. In addition, the ABLES program strives to improve state capacity to monitor trends in workplace lead exposure and conduct intervention activities to prevent lead exposures.

Why work-related lead surveillance is important

In the United States, when the lead exposure source is known, almost all adult blood lead levels higher than 25 μg/dL are work-related. Lead exposure occurs mainly in battery manufacturing, lead and zinc ore mining, and painting and paper hanging industries.

Workplace lead exposure is an ongoing health problem in the United States. Lead exposure causes short-term and long-term health effects in many organ systems, ranging from changes in function to life-threatening intoxication. Lead exposure at low doses can lead to:

  • adverse cardiovascular and kidney effects
  • cognitive dysfunction
  • adverse reproductive outcomes


To learn more about NIOSH-supported adult blood lead epidemiology surveillance activities, please contact Rebecca Tsai, PhD (

Page last reviewed: May 11, 2018