The objective of the present study is to compare distal femoral cartilage thicknesses of patients with occupational lead exposure with those of healthy subjects by using ultrasonography. A total of 48 male workers (a mean age of 34.8 +/- 6.8 years and mean body mass index (BMI) of 25.8 +/- 3.1 kg/m(2)) with a likely history of occupational lead exposure and age-and BMI-matched healthy male subjects were enrolled. Demographic and clinical characteristics of the patients, that is, age, weight, height, occupation, estimated duration of lead exposure, and smoking habits were recorded. Femoral cartilage thickness was assessed from the midpoints of right medial condyle (RMC), right lateral condyle (RLC), right intercondylar area (RIA), left medial condyle (LMC), left lateral condyle (LLC), and left intercondylar area (LIA) by using ultrasonography. Although the workers had higher femoral cartilage thickness values at all measurement sites when compared with those of the control subjects, the difference reached statistical significance at RLC (P = 0.010), LMC (P = 0.001), and LIA (P = 0.039). There were no correlations between clinical parameters and cartilage-thickness values of the workers. Subjects with a history of lead exposure had higher femoral cartilage thickness as compared with the healthy subjects. Further studies, including histological evaluations, are awaited to clarify the clinical relevance of this increase in cartilage thickness and to explore the long-term follow-up especially with respect to osteoarthritis development.