The decline in kidney function with chromium exposure is exacerbated with co-exposure to lead and cadmium

Kidney Int. 2017 Sep;92(3):710-720. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2017.03.013. Epub 2017 May 12.


Environmental factors contribute significantly to the pathogenesis of chronic kidney disease. However, these factors, and particularly the toxic effects of heavy metals, have not been completely evaluated. Chromium is a widespread industrial contaminant that has been linked to nephrotoxicity in animal and occupational population studies. Nevertheless, its role in population renal health and its potential interactions with other nephrotoxic metals, such as lead and cadmium, remain unknown. We assessed the association between exposure to chromium, lead, and cadmium with renal function using estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) in an analysis of 360 Taiwanese adults aged 19-84 years from the National Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan (2005-2008). Doubling of urinary chromium or lead decreased the eGFR by -5.99 mL/min/1.73 m2 (95% confidence interval -9.70, -2.27) and -6.61 (-9.71, -3.51), respectively, after adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, hypertension, diabetes, cigarette smoking, sodium intake, education, urinary volume, and other metals. For those in the highest tertile of cadmium exposure, the eGFR decreased by -12.68 mL/min/1.73 m2 (95% confidence interval -20.44, -4.93) and -11.22 mL/min/1.73 m2 (-17.01, -5.44), as urinary chromium or lead levels doubled, respectively. Thus, there is a significant and independent association between chromium exposure and decreased renal function. Furthermore, co-exposure to chromium with lead and cadmium is potentially associated with additional decline in the glomerular filtration rate in Taiwanese adults.

Keywords: cadmium; chromium; epidemiology; lead; metal exposure; renal function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • Cadmium / urine
  • Chromium / toxicity*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Lead / toxicity*
  • Lead / urine
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / chemically induced*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / urine
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Lead