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Biometals. 2004 Oct;17(5):499-503.

Environmental cadmium exposure and forearm bone density.

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Institute of Radiation Medicine, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.


Environmental exposure to cadmium may give rise to osteomalacia combined with renal dysfunction, so called 'Itai-Itai disease', which was endemic in the heavily polluted area in Japan. The main focus of this study was to investigate whether environmental exposure to cadmium is associated with low bone mass in a population living near a smelter. A total of 790 persons (302 males and 488 females), who were all over 35 years old and resided in areas near a lead, zinc and cadmium smelter and in a control area in southeast China, completed a questionnaire, and bone mineral density was measured by SPA-4 single photon absorptiometry at the radius and ulna. Cadmium content of urine was determined by graphite-furnace atomic absorption spectrophotometry as a measure of dose. The present study shows that forearm bone densities were negatively correlated with urinary cadmium excretion (p < 0.001) and forearm bone density decreased linearly with age (p < 0.001) and urinary cadmium (p < 0.01), suggesting a dose-effect relationship between cadmium dose and bone mineral density. Based on the World Health Organization criteria, (bone mineral density < -2.5 SDs below the normal young adult), the prevalence of osteoporosis in women increased from 34.0% in the control area to 51.9% in the heavily polluted area (p < 0.01) among subjects over 50 years old, and the odds ratio value was 2.09 (95% CI: 1.08-4.03) for the highly polluted area compared with the control area. A striking observation in the study was a marked increase of the prevalence of fracture in the cadmium-polluted area in both sexes. It was concluded that environmental exposure to cadmium is associated with an increased loss of bone mineral density in both gender, leading to osteoporosis and increased risk of fractures, especially in the elderly and in females.

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