Circadian rhythms of seven heavy metals in plasma, erythrocytes and urine in men: observation in metal workers

Ind Health. 2000 Apr;38(2):205-12. doi: 10.2486/indhealth.38.205.


To elucidate circadian rhythms (variation within a day) of 7 toxic or essential metals in plasma and erythrocytes in relation to the rhythms in urine in men, 19 male metal foundry workers were examined; they were exposed to lead (Pb), zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu) occupationally but separated from the exposure during the study. Circadian rhythms were found for plasma concentration of Pb, cadmium (Cd), Zn, Cu and chromium (Cr) in the workers. Circadian rhythms were also found for Pb, inorganic mercury (Hg), Zn and Cr in erythrocytes and for all metals except Zn in urine. Both the plasma and urinary levels of Pb, Cd, Cu and Cr together with urinary excretion of Mn and creatinine tended to decrease during night hours; both the erythrocyte and urinary levels of Hg together with both the plasma and erythrocyte levels of Zn tended to increase during morning hours. The results of profile analysis suggested that the circadian rhythm of Pb in urine was affected more strongly by its plasma and erythrocyte rhythms than by the rhythm of creatinine in urine, i.e. the rhythm of glomerular filtration; the urinary rhythms of Cd, Cr, and Mn were affected more by the creatinine rhythm; and the urinary rhythm of Cu was affected by both its plasma and creatinine rhythms. On the other hand, the urinary rhythm of Hg was assumed to be independent of the creatinine rhythm and be affected by its erythrocyte rhythm. The present study suggested that different biological limit values might be needed for different hours of the day especially for shift workers who are exposed to various heavy metals. Instead, further studies should be conducted to find the adjustment methods by which no circadian rhythms are discerned.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Creatinine / metabolism
  • Creatinine / pharmacokinetics
  • Data Collection
  • Erythrocytes / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metals, Heavy / blood*
  • Metals, Heavy / urine
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Reference Values


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Creatinine