Context: Animal model studies have demonstrated that subchronic oral uranium exposure is associated with renal dysfunction. Little is known about the effects of environmental exposure to uranium in humans.
Objective: To determine whether environmental exposure to uranium is associated with alterations in renal function among residents of the United States.
Methods: We analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2010. Inclusion criteria included the measurement of urine uranium concentration, serum creatinine (sCr), and urine albumin-creatinine ratio. Exclusion criteria included a reported history of diabetes mellitus. Urine uranium concentrations were normalized to urinary creatinine. Respondents with and without detectable urine uranium concentrations were compared using Welch's t-test for urine albumin-creatinine ratio and sCr and using Fisher's exact test for a reported history of renal disease. Regression analysis was performed to assess for an association between urine uranium concentration and urine albumin-creatinine ratio, sCr, or a reported history of renal disease.
Results: Uranium was detectable in the urine of 74.1% (n = 9025) of respondents. Urine albumin-creatinine ratio was significantly greater in respondents with detectable urine uranium concentrations (mean 4.84 ± 45.8 mg/g) compared to respondents without detectable urine uranium concentrations (mean 0.77 ± 3.7 mg/g) (p < 0.001). There was no significant difference between the groups with respect to sCr or a reported history of renal disease. Regression analysis did not show a statistically significant association between urine uranium concentration and urine albumin-creatinine ratio (p = 0.45), sCr (p = 0.71), or a reported history of renal disease (p = 0.05).
Conclusions: In this study, a high proportion of the U.S. population had exposure to uranium. We demonstrated an association between detectable urine uranium concentrations and microalbuminuria in residents of the United States but no association with clinical renal disease.
Keywords: Environmental; Heavy metals; Kidney.