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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2008 Nov 15;233(1):92-9. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2008.01.017. Epub 2008 Jan 31.

Roles of biomarkers in evaluating interactions among mixtures of lead, cadmium and arsenic.

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Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology, U.T.M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Human exposure to environmental chemicals is most correctly characterized as exposure to mixtures of these agents. The metals/metalloids, lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and arsenic (As), are among the leading toxic agents detected in the environment. Exposure to these elements, particularly at chronic low dose levels, is still a major public health concern. Concurrent exposure to Pb, Cd, or As may produce additive or synergistic interactions or even new effects that are not seen in single component exposures. Evaluating these interactions on a mechanistic basis is essential for risk assessment and management of metal/metalloid mixtures. This paper will review a number of individual studies that addressed interactions of these metals/metalloids in both experimental and human exposure studies with particular emphasis on biomarkers. In general, co-exposure to metal/metalloid mixtures produced more severe effects at both relatively high dose and low dose levels in a biomarker-specific manner. These effects were found to be mediated by dose, duration of exposure and genetic factors. While traditional endpoints, such as morphological changes and biochemical parameters for target organ toxicity, were effective measures for evaluating the toxicity of high dose metal/metalloid mixtures, biomarkers for oxidative stress, altered heme biosynthesis parameters, and stress proteins showed clear responses in evaluating toxicity of low dose metal/metalloid mixtures. Metallothionein, heat shock proteins, and glutathione are involved in regulating interactive effects of metal/metalloid mixtures at low dose levels. These findings suggest that further studies on interactions of these metal/metalloid mixtures utilizing biomarker endpoints are highly warranted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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