Impact of occupational cadmium exposure on spirometry, sputum leukocyte count, and lung cell DNA damage among Indian goldsmiths

Am J Ind Med. 2015 Jun;58(6):617-24. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22449. Epub 2015 Mar 19.


Background: Cadmium is frequently used in manual jewelry industries. Although its toxicity on lung function is well-known, the mechanism is not well-understood.

Methods: Among 26 goldsmiths exposed to cadmium (mean age 35.9 ± 5.0 years) and 17 referent workers without direct exposure (36.6 ± 6.6 years), we measured blood and urinary cadmium concentration and performed spirometry and quantified leukocytes and comet formation in the cells from spontaneously expectorated sputum samples.

Results: The goldsmiths had higher cadmium concentration in urine (mean 6.14 ± 1.63 vs. 0.47 ± 0.17 μg/dl) and blood (0.90 ± 0.23 vs. 0.02 ± 0.007 μg/dl) than the referents, which were inversely associated with FEV1 /FVC. Cadmium exposure also resulted in higher neutrophils (%) and lower macrophage (%) prevalence in the sputum and also caused substantial DNA damage in the lung cells among the goldsmiths than the referents (69 vs. 14%).

Conclusion: Altered lung function among cadmium-exposed goldsmiths was associated with enhanced inflammatory response and increased cellular DNA damage in the lungs.

Keywords: cadmium; comet assay; jewelry industry; occupational exposure; sputum.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cadmium / blood
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • Cadmium / urine
  • DNA Damage
  • Humans
  • India
  • Jewelry / toxicity*
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Spirometry
  • Sputum / drug effects*
  • Whites


  • Cadmium