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1 September 2018 Subclinical Lead Exposure Among Backyard Chicken Flocks in Massachusetts
Daniel C. Mordarski, Jessica H. Leibler, Carolyn C. Talmadge, Gregory M. Wolfus, Mark A. Pokras, Marieke H. Rosenbaum
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Abstract

Ownership of backyard chickens (BYCs) is increasing in urban areas, and BYCs often have access to soil around the home. Exposure to lead-contaminated soil is a known health risk for people; however, the degree to which BYCs are exposed is unknown. We employed a cross-sectional convenience sample to assess blood lead levels (BLLs) in 57 BYCs from 30 flocks in a region with established environmental lead contamination. Over two-thirds (70.2%) had detectable levels of lead in their blood, which averaged 12.5 μg/dL (range: <3.3 μg/dL to ≥65.0 μg/dL). No chickens demonstrated clinical evidence of lead toxicosis. Almost all owners (96.2%) reported that their chickens had free access to soil, and almost three-quarters (69.2%) of the participants reported giving their chickens unrestricted access to the property. Our findings demonstrate that subclinical but elevated BLLs are common in BYCs that live in an environment where lead contamination may be present. Our data support the inclusion of blood lead testing in the routine veterinary care of BYCs, especially in areas where historic use of leaded paint and environmental lead contamination are reported.

© 2018 by the Association of Avian Veterinarians
Daniel C. Mordarski, Jessica H. Leibler, Carolyn C. Talmadge, Gregory M. Wolfus, Mark A. Pokras, and Marieke H. Rosenbaum "Subclinical Lead Exposure Among Backyard Chicken Flocks in Massachusetts," Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery 32(3), 185-193, (1 September 2018). https://doi.org/10.1647/2017-286
Published: 1 September 2018
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