Susceptibility to environmental stressors has been described for fetal and early childhood development. However, the possible susceptibility of the prepubertal period, characterized by the orchestration of the organism towards sexual maturation and adulthood has been poorly investigated and exposure data are scarce. In the current study levels of cadmium (Cd), cotinine and creatinine in urine were analyzed in a subsample 216 children from 12 European countries within the DEMOCOPHES project. The children were divided into six age-sex groups: boys (6-8 years, 9-10 years and 11 years old), and girls (6-7 years, 8-9 years, 10-11 years). The number of subjects per group was between 23 and 53. The cut off values were set at 0.1 µg/L for Cd, and 0.8 µg/L for cotinine defined according to the highest limit of quantification. The levels of Cd and cotinine were adjusted for creatinine level. In the total subsample group, the median level of Cd was 0.180 µg/L (range 0.10-0.69 µg/L), and for cotinine the median wet weight value was 1.50 µg/L (range 0.80-39.91 µg/L). There was no significant difference in creatinine and cotinine levels between genders and age groups. There was a significant correlation between levels of cadmium and creatinine in all children of both genders. This shows that even at such low levels the possible effect of cadmium on kidney function was present and measurable. An increase in Cd levels was evident with age. Cadmium levels were significantly different between 6-7 year old girls, 11 year old boys and 10-11 year old girls. As there was a balanced distribution in the number of subjects from countries included in the study, bias due to data clustering was not probable. The impact of low Cd levels on kidney function and gender differences in Cd levels needs further investigation.
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