Chronic renal effects in three studies of men and women occupationally exposed to cadmium

Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 1992 Jul;23(1):125-36. doi: 10.1007/BF00226005.


We measured sensitive indicators of renal damage in three different populations occupationally exposed to cadmium, and examined the degree of variation in damage and the relative sensitivity of different types of indicators. The three studies included (1) men exposed in a cadmium recovery plant, (2) men exposed in a nickel/cadmium battery plant, and (3) women exposed in the latter plant. The indicators of renal damage were urinary proteins in three categories: (1) the high molecular weight enzymes alanine aminopeptidase (AAP) and N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase (NAG), (2) the intermediate molecular weight protein albumin (ALB), and (3) the low molecular weight proteins retinol-binding protein (RBP) and beta 2-microglobulin (B2M). These tests indicate that exposed groups with higher urine cadmium levels had varying degrees of renal damage. All exposed groups showed evidence of renal damage when compared with their respective control groups. A higher percentage of elevated protein levels was noted in the exposed group of Study 1 than in the exposed groups of Studies 2 and 3. In Study 1, the means of all five protein levels and ALB, RBP, and B2M fractional clearances were significantly elevated in the group with higher urine cadmium concentrations when compared with the groups with lower urine cadmium concentrations. Highly significant dose-response relationships for all of the urinary protein tests, including fractional clearances, were found. All of the tests were more sensitive in detecting evidence of subclinical renal damage than serum creatinine, a commonly used indicator of renal function. The order of test sensitivity in men was determined by considering three factors: (1) the magnitude of the correlation coefficient between the test and the urine cadmium concentration in the study with the most advanced damage, (2) the relative cadmium level predicted by the dose-response model at which there is a 10% chance of observing an elevated test value, and (3) the ability of the tests to detect renal effects in the population with less advanced damage. The tests in order of decreasing sensitivity in men are ALB, AAP, NAG, RBP approximately B2M. The women with higher urine cadmium levels in Study 3 had a higher percentage of elevated AAP and NAG values when compared with the control group.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cadmium / adverse effects*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*


  • Cadmium