Blood cadmium, mercury, and lead in children: an international comparison of cities in six European countries, and China, Ecuador, and Morocco

Environ Int. 2012 May;41:29-34. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2011.12.001. Epub 2012 Jan 16.


Children's blood-lead concentration (B-Pb) is well studied, but little is known about cadmium (B-Cd) and mercury (B-Hg), in particular for central Europe. Such information is necessary for risk assessment and management. Therefore, we here describe and compare B-Pb, B-Cd and B-Hg in children in six European, and three non-European cities, and identify determinants of these exposures. About 50 school children (7-14 years) from each city were recruited (totally 433) in 2007-2008. Interview and questionnaire data were obtained. A blood sample was analyzed: only two laboratories with strict quality control were used. The European cities showed only minor differences for B-Cd (geometric means 0.11-0.17 μg/L) and B-Pb (14-20 μg/L), but larger for B-Hg (0.12-0.94 μg/L). Corresponding means for the non-European countries were 0.21-0.26, 32-71, and 0.3-3.2 μg/L, respectively. For B-Cd in European samples, traffic intensity close to home was a statistically significant determinant, for B-Hg fish consumption and amalgam fillings, and for B-Pb sex (boys higher). This study shows that European city children's B-Cd and B-Pb vary only little between countries; B-Hg differs considerably, due to varying tooth restoration practices and fish intake. Traffic intensity seemed to be a determinant for B-Cd. The metal concentrations were low from a risk perspective but the chosen non-European cities showed higher concentrations than the cities in Europe.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cadmium / blood*
  • Child
  • China
  • Cities / statistics & numerical data
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data
  • Ecuador
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood*
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood*
  • Morocco
  • Risk Assessment


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mercury