Cadmium, mercury, and lead in kidney cortex of living kidney donors: Impact of different exposure sources

Environ Res. 2010 Jan;110(1):47-54. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2009.10.010.


Background: Most current knowledge on kidney concentrations of nephrotoxic metals like cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), or lead (Pb) comes from autopsy studies. Assessment of metal concentrations in kidney biopsies from living subjects can be combined with information about exposure sources like smoking, diet, and occupation supplied by the biopsied subjects themselves.

Objectives: To determine kidney concentrations of Cd, Hg, and Pb in living kidney donors, and assess associations with common exposure sources and background factors.

Methods: Metal concentrations were determined in 109 living kidney donors aged 24-70 years (median 51), using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (Cd and Pb) and cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectrometry (Hg). Smoking habits, occupation, dental amalgam, fish consumption, and iron stores were evaluated.

Results: The median kidney concentrations were 12.9microg/g (wet weight) for cadmium, 0.21microg/g for mercury, and 0.08microg/g for lead. Kidney Cd increased by 3.9microg/g for a 10 year increase in age, and by 3.7microg/g for an extra 10 pack-years of smoking. Levels in non-smokers were similar to those found in the 1970s. Low iron stores (low serum ferritin) in women increased kidney Cd by 4.5microg/g. Kidney Hg increased by 6% for every additional amalgam surface, but was not associated with fish consumption. Lead was unaffected by the background factors surveyed.

Conclusions: In Sweden, kidney Cd levels have decreased due to less smoking, while the impact of diet seems unchanged. Dental amalgam is the main determinant of kidney Hg. Kidney Pb levels are very low due to decreased exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Body Burden
  • Cadmium / analysis*
  • Cadmium / pharmacokinetics
  • Cadmium / toxicity
  • Diet
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Cortex / drug effects
  • Kidney Cortex / metabolism*
  • Kidney Cortex / pathology
  • Kidney Transplantation* / standards
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Lead / pharmacokinetics
  • Lead / toxicity
  • Living Donors*
  • Male
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Mercury / pharmacokinetics
  • Mercury / toxicity
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic
  • Young Adult


  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mercury