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PLoS One. 2016 May 18;11(5):e0155818. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155818. eCollection 2016.

Association between Concentrations of Metals in Urine and Adult Asthma: A Case-Control Study in Wuhan, China.

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Department of Occupational & Environmental Health and Key Laboratory of Environment and Health, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environmental Protection, and State Key Laboratory of Environmental Health (Incubating), School of Public Health, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China.
Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China.



Several metals have been reported to be associated with childhood asthma. However, the results on relationships between metals and risk of childhood asthma are inconclusive, and the research on adult asthma in the Chinese general population is rare.


To investigate potential associations between levels of urinary metals and adult asthma.


A case-control study of 551 adult asthma cases and 551 gender- and age-matched controls was conducted in Wuhan, China. Demographic information was obtained, and lung function was assessed. The urinary concentrations of 22 metals were measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry.


After adjusting for other metalsand other covariates, urinary cadmium, molybdenum, chromium, copper, uranium and selenium were positively associated with asthma, with odds ratios (95% CI) of 1.69 (1.00, 2.85), 3.76 (2.30, 6.16), 4.89 (3.04, 7.89), 6.06 (3.27, 11.21), 6.99 (4.37, 11.19) and 9.17 (4.16, 20.21), respectively. By contrast, urinary lead, barium, iron, zinc, nickel, manganese and rubidium were negatively associated with asthma, with odds ratios (95% CI) of 0.48 (0.29, 0.80), 0.44 (0.27, 0.71), 0.41 (0.26, 0.64), 0.40 (0.24, 0.66), 0.30 (0.22, 0.41), 0.23 (0.14, 0.39) and 0.07 (0.03, 0.15), respectively. When comparing urinary metals in different subgroups of cases with those in matched controls, the associations of above 13 metals with asthma prevalence were nearly the same.


Our results suggested that asthma prevalence in the Chinese adults was positively associated with urinary chromium, chromium, selenium, molybdenum, cadmium, and uranium, and negatively associated with urinary manganese, iron, nickel, zinc, rubidium, barium and lead. Additional research with larger populations in different regions is required to support our findings.

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