Exposure determinants of cadmium in European mothers and their children


M. Berglund, K. Larsson, M. Grandér, L. Casteleyn, M. Kolossa-Gehring, G. Schwedler, A. Castaño, M. Esteban, J. Angerer, H. M. Koch, B. K. Schindler, G. Schoeters, R. Smolders, K. Exley, O. Sepai, L. Blumen, M. Horvat, L. E. Knudsen, T. A. Mørck, A. Joas, R. Joas, P. Biot, D. Aerts, K. De Cremer, I. Van Overmeire, A. Katsonouri, A. Hadjipanayis, M. Cerna, A. Krskova, J. K. S. Nielsen, J. F. Jensen, P. Rudnai, S. Kozepesy, C. Griffin, I. Nesbitt, A. C. Gutleb, M. E. Fischer, D. Ligocka, M. Jakubowski, M. F. Reis, S. Namorado, I. R. Lupsa, A. E. Gurzau, K. Halzlova, M. Jajcaj, D. Mazej, J. S. Tratnik, A. Lopez, A. Cañas, A. Lehmann, P. Crettaz, E. Den Hond, and E. Govarts


Environmental Research, vol. 141, pp. 69-76, 2015.


The metal cadmium (Cd) is a widespread environmental pollutant with documented adverse effects on the kidneys and bones from long-term environmental exposure, but with insufficiently elucidated public health consequences such as risk of cardiovascular disease, hormone-related cancer in adults and developmental effects in children. This study is the first pan-European human biomonitoring project that succeeded in performing harmonized measurements of Cd in urine in a comparable way in mother–child couples from 16 European countries. The aim of the study was to evaluate the overall Cd exposure and significant determinants of Cd exposure.

A study population of 1632 women (24–52 years of age), and 1689 children (5–12 years of age), from 32 rural and urban areas, was examined within a core period of 6 months in 2011–2012. Women were stratified as smokers and non-smokers. As expected, smoking mothers had higher geometric mean (gm) urinary cadmium (UCd; 0.24 µg/g crea; n=360) than non-smoking mothers (gm 0.18 µg/g crea; n=1272; p<0.0001), and children had lower UCd (gm 0.065 µg/g crea; n=1689) than their mothers at the country level. Non-smoking women exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) at home had 14% (95% CI 1–28%) higher UCd than those who were not exposed to ETS at home (p=0.04). No influence of ETS at home or other places on UCd levels was detected in children. Smoking women with primary education as the highest educational level of the household had 48% (95% CI 18–86%) higher UCd than those with tertiary education (p=0.0008). The same observation was seen in non-smoking women and in children; however they were not statistically significant. In children, living in a rural area was associated with 7% (95% CI 1–13%) higher UCd (p=0.03) compared to living in an urban area. Children, 9–12 years had 7% (95% CI 1–13%) higher UCd (p=0.04) than children 5–8 years.

About 1% of the mothers, and 0.06% of the children, exceeded the tolerable weekly intake (TWI) appointed by EFSA, corresponding to 1.0 µg Cd/g crea in urine. Poland had the highest UCd in comparison between the 16 countries, while Denmark had the lowest. Whether the differences between countries are related to differences in the degree of environmental Cd contamination or to differences in lifestyle, socioeconomic status or dietary patterns is not clear.



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