Environmental exposure to metals and the risk of hypertension: A cross-sectional study in China

Environ Pollut. 2018 Feb;233:670-678. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.10.111. Epub 2017 Nov 6.


Metal pollution is a severe environmental issue in China, which has been recently linked with the risk of hypertension. However, relevant epidemiological studies are limited. The present exploratory study was conducted to assess the associations of environmental exposure to metals with the odds of hypertension as well as blood pressure (BP) levels using urine samples in a Chinese general population. From May 2016 to April 2017, a total of 823 eligible participants were consecutively enrolled in our study in Wuhan, China. Hypertension was defined as systolic BP (SBP) of ≥140 mmHg or diastolic BP (DBP) of ≥90 mmHg, a self-reported physician diagnosis, or current use of antihypertensive medication. We used urine samples as biomarkers to reflect the levels of environmental exposure to 20 metals. Multivariable regression models were applied to assess the potential association. Multi-metal models were conducted to investigate the impacts of co-exposure to various metals. Based on the results from various models, positive trends for increased odds of hypertension with increasing quartiles of vanadium (V), iron (Fe), zinc (Zn) and selenium (Se) were suggested. Compared with those in the lowest quartiles, participants in the highest quartiles of V, Fe, Zn and Se had a 4.4-fold, 4.9-fold, 4.2-fold and 2.5-fold increased odds of having hypertension, respectively. High urinary Hg level was found to increase the levels of DBP. Individuals in the highest group of Hg were found to have a 4.3 mmHg higher level of DBP. Our findings suggest that environmental exposure to V, Fe, Zn, Se and Hg might increase the risk of hypertension or elevate the levels of BP. These findings warrant further prospective studies in a larger population.

Keywords: Blood pressure; Environmental exposure; Epidemiology; Hypertension; Urinary metal.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Environmental Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Hypertension / metabolism
  • Iron
  • Male
  • Metals / metabolism*
  • Metals / urine
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Zinc


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals
  • Iron
  • Zinc