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J Lab Clin Med. 1981 Oct;98(4):463-81.

Concurrent exposure to lead, cadmium, and arsenic. Effects on toxicity and tissue metal concentrations in the rat.


Male rats were exposed to dietary Pb (200 ppm), Cd (50 ppm), or As (50 ppm) as arsenate either alone or in combination for 10 weeks using a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial design. Cd and As reduced weight gain even when differences in food intake were taken into account, and administration of both Cd and As depressed weight gain more than did either metal alone. Pb did not adversely affect food consumption or weight gain. Increased RBCs were observed after administration of Pb, Cd, or As, and more cells were observed when two or three metals were concomitantly administered. Despite increased numbers of circulating RBCs, hemoglobin and hematocrit were reduced, especially with the Pb-Cd combination. Analysis of blood chemistries showed normal ranges for blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, cholesterol, calcium, albumin, total protein, and bilirubin. Uric acid was increased by Pb, but not by Cd or As. SGOT activity was reduced by As alone. Serum alkaline phosphatase was reduced by either As or Cd but not Pb. Combinations of As and Cd did not further reduce the activity of this enzyme. Kidney weight and kidney weight/body weight ratios were increased by Pb alone, but Cd or As alone or in combination had no effect. Liver weight/body weight ratios were reduced in animals fed Cd. Kidney histology showed predominantly Pb effects, i.e., intranuclear inclusion bodies and cloudy swelling. Ultrastructural evaluation of kidneys from Pb-treated animals disclosed nuclear inclusion bodies and mitochondrial swelling. Concurrent administration of Cd reduced total mean bone and kidney Pb levels by 50% and 60%, respectively, and this was associated with a decrease in kidney intranuclear inclusions. Cd exposure also reduced renal, femur, and liver concentrations of Fe by 33%, 43%, and 63%, respectively, decreased femur Zn by 27%, but increased renal Zn by 20%. Administration of As produced mild swelling of tubule cell mitochondria, increased mean total renal Cu to 200% of control, and increased liver Fe by 44%. Dietary Pb produced increased urinary excretion of ALA and coproporphyrin. Dietary exposure to As caused increased urinary excretion of uroporphyrin and to a lesser extent coproporphyrin, whereas dietary Cd caused no significant changes in urinary levels of any of the porphyrins measured. Pb plus As produced an additive effect on coproporphyrin excretion but not that of ALA or uroporphyrin. These studies indicate that interactions between common toxic elements do occur and are characterized by alterations in both tissue trace metal levels and toxicity.

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