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Environ Res. 2015 Jul;140:205-13. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2015.03.038. Epub 2015 Apr 9.

Kidney function and blood pressure in preschool-aged children exposed to cadmium and arsenic--potential alleviation by selenium.

Author information

Unit of Metals and Health, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Medical Research Council (MRC), International Nutrition Group, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Department of Clinical Trial and Clinical Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan.
MRC Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge, UK.
Unit of Metals and Health, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. Electronic address:



Early-life exposure to toxic compounds may cause long-lasting health effects, but few studies have investigated effects of childhood exposure to nephrotoxic metals on kidney and cardiovascular function.


To assess effects of exposure to arsenic and cadmium on kidney function and blood pressure in pre-school-aged children, and potential protection by selenium.


This cross-sectional study was part of the 4.5 years of age (range: 4.4-5.4 years) follow-up of the children from a supplementation trial in pregnancy (MINIMat) in rural Bangladesh, and nested studies on early-life metal exposures. Exposure to arsenic, cadmium and selenium from food and drinking water was assessed by concentrations in children's urine, measured by ICP-MS. Kidney function was assessed by the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR, n=1106), calculated from serum cystatin C, and by kidney volume, measured by ultrasound (n=375). Systolic and diastolic blood pressure was measured (n=1356) after five minutes rest.


Multivariable-adjusted regression analyzes showed that exposure to cadmium, but not arsenic, was inversely associated with eGFR, particularly in girls. A 0.5 µg/L increase in urinary cadmium among the girls (above spline knot at 0.12) was associated with a decrease in eGFR of 2.6 ml/min/1.73 m(2), corresponding to 0.2SD (p=0.022). A slightly weaker inverse association with cadmium was also indicated for kidney volume, but no significant associations were found with blood pressure. Stratifying on children's urinary selenium (below or above median of 12.6 µg/L) showed a three times stronger inverse association of U-Cd with eGFR (all children) in the lower selenium stratum (B=-2.8; 95% CI: -5.5, -0.20; p=0.035), compared to those with higher selenium (B=-0.79; 95% CI: -3.0, 1.4; p=0.49).


Childhood cadmium exposure seems to adversely affect kidney function, but not blood pressure, in this population of young children in rural Bangladesh. Better selenium status appears to be protective. However, it is important to follow up these children to assess potential long-term consequences of these findings.


Arsenic; Cadmium; Selenium; blood pressure; children; kidney function

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