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Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Jul;110(7):699-702.

Cadmium and lead in blood in relation to low bone mineral density and tubular proteinuria.

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Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Erratum in

  • Environ Health Perspect 2002 Sep;110(9):A505.


Long-term exposure to cadmium may cause kidney and bone damage. Urinary cadmium is commonly used as the dose estimate for the body burden of cadmium. However, elevated levels of cadmium in the urine may reflect not only high levels of cadmium dose but also renal dysfunction. In this study we used blood cadmium as the dose estimate. In addition, we analyzed blood lead. We examined 479 men and 542 women, ages 16-81 years, who were environmentally or occupationally exposed to cadmium and lead. We used urinary protein alpha 1-microglobulin as a marker for tubular proteinuria and measured forearm bone mineral density using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. The relationship between blood cadmium and tubular proteinuria was strong, even when we excluded occupationally exposed participants. The subgroup with the highest blood cadmium levels had a 4-fold risk of tubular proteinuria compared to the subgroup with the lowest blood cadmium levels. In the older age group (age > 60), the risk of low bone mineral density (z-score < -1) for the subgroup with the highest blood cadmium levels was almost 3-fold compared to the group with lowest blood cadmium levels. We found no similar associations for lead. The observed effects may be caused by higher cadmium exposure in the past. This study strengthens previous evidence that cadmium exposure may affect both bone mineral density and kidney function.

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