Arsenic, cadmium, and mercury-induced hypertension: mechanisms and epidemiological findings

J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2018;21(2):61-82. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2018.1432025. Epub 2018 Feb 15.


Arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), and mercury (Hg) are toxic elements widely distributed in the environment. Exposure to these elements was attributed to produce several acute and chronic illnesses including hypertension. The aim of this review is to provide a summary of the most frequently proposed mechanisms underlying hypertension associated with As, Cd, and Hg exposure including: oxidative stress, impaired nitric oxide (NO) signaling, modified vascular response to neurotransmitters and disturbed vascular muscle Ca2+ signaling, renal damage, and interference with the renin-angiotensin system. Due to the complexity of the vascular system, a combination rather than a singular mechanism needs to be considered. In addition, epidemiological findings showing the relationship between various biomarkers of metal exposure and hypertension are described. Given the complex etiology of hypertension, further epidemiological studies evaluating the roles of confounding factors such as age, gender, and life style are still necessary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / toxicity*
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / chemically induced
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Incidence
  • Mercury / toxicity*
  • Prevalence


  • Cadmium
  • Mercury
  • Arsenic