Incidence of nephrolithiasis in relation to environmental exposure to lead and cadmium in a population study

Environ Res. 2016 Feb;145:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2015.11.013. Epub 2015 Nov 21.


Whether environmental exposure to nephrotoxic agents that potentially interfere with calcium homeostasis, such as lead and cadmium, contribute to the incidence of nephrolithiasis needs further clarification. We investigated the relation between nephrolithiasis incidence and environmental lead and cadmium exposure in a general population. In 1302 participants randomly recruited from a Flemish population (50.9% women; mean age, 47.9 years), we obtained baseline measurements (1985-2005) of blood lead (BPb), blood cadmium (BCd), 24-h urinary cadmium (UCd) and covariables. We monitored the incidence of kidney stones until October 6, 2014. We used Cox regression to calculate multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios for nephrolithiasis. At baseline, geometric mean BPb, BCd and UCd was 0.29µmol/L, 9.0nmol/L, and 8.5nmol per 24h, respectively. Over 11.5 years (median), nephrolithiasis occurred in 40 people. Contrasting the low and top tertiles of the distributions, the sex- and age-standardized rates of nephrolithiasis expressed as events per 1000 person-years were 0.68 vs. 3.36 (p=0.0016) for BPb, 1.80 vs. 3.28 (p=0.11) for BCd, and 1.65 vs. 2.95 (p=0.28) for UCd. In continuous analysis, with adjustments applied for sex, age, serum magnesium, and 24-h urinary volume and calcium, the hazard ratios expressing the risk associated with a doubling of the exposure biomarkers were 1.35 (p=0.015) for BPb, 1.13 (p=0.22) for BCd, and 1.23 (p=0.070) for UCd. In conclusion, our results suggest that environmental lead exposure is a risk factor for nephrolithiasis in the general population.

Keywords: Cadmium; Lead; Nephrolithiasis; Population science; Risk stratification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Cadmium / blood*
  • Cadmium / toxicity
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lead / blood*
  • Lead / toxicity
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephrolithiasis / blood
  • Nephrolithiasis / chemically induced
  • Nephrolithiasis / epidemiology*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Cadmium
  • Lead