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Mol Med Rep. 2017 May;15(5):3413-3419. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2017.6389. Epub 2017 Mar 24.

Kidney and heavy metals - The role of environmental exposure (Review).

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Department of Nephrology and Dialysis, 'St. Bassiano' Hospital, I-36061 Bassano del Grappa, Italy.
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Catania, I-95124 Catania, Italy.
Department of Nephrology 'St. Giovanni di Dio' Hospital, I-92100 Agrigento, Italy.


Heavy metals are extensively used in agriculture and industrial applications such as production of pesticides, batteries, alloys, and textile dyes. Prolonged, intensive or excessive exposure can induce related systemic disorders. Kidney is a target organ in heavy metal toxicity for its capacity to filter, reabsorb and concentrate divalent ions. The extent and the expression of renal damage depends on the species of metals, the dose, and the time of exposure. Almost always acute kidney impairment differs from chronic renal failure in its mechanism and in the magnitude of the outcomes. As a result, clinical features and treatment algorithm are also different. Heavy metals in plasma exist in an ionized form, that is toxic and leads to acute toxicity and a bound, inert form when metal is conjugated with metallothionein and are then delivered to the liver and possible causing the kidney chronic damage. Treatment regimens include chelation therapy, supportive care, decontamination procedures and renal replacement therapies. This review adds specific considerations to kidney impairment due to the most common heavy metal exposures and its treatment.

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