Effects of Humic Acids in Chronic Lead Poisoning

Biol Trace Elem Res. 2019 Jan;187(1):230-242. doi: 10.1007/s12011-018-1375-1. Epub 2018 May 10.


Chronic exposure to lead causes disruption to energy production mechanisms and tissue damage, in particular through its binding to thiol groups and competition for zinc binding sites. We investigated the possibility of preventing the consequences of chronic lead poisoning by administration of three different doses of humic acids (HAs) into feed with the aim of establishing an effective HA dose. During the 10-week experiment, a sub-lethal dose of lead acetate was given to rats during the first 5 weeks, with continuous administration of HA over 10 weeks. Measurements were taken to determine the content of the metals Pb, Mn, Cu, Fe and Zn; the metalloid Se; and selected antioxidant markers in the heart, liver, kidney and plasma after the first, fifth and tenth weeks of experiment. The administration of lead and HAs clearly affects the redistribution of the elements and the activity of the antioxidant enzymes. This fact was particularly highlighted in the lead-only group as, within the experiment, significantly higher Pb concentrations were found only in the plasma of this group. However, in the group with 1% HA administered with lead, we observed a rise in Zn concentrations in the organs and the deposition of Fe into the liver. Decreased glutathione reductase activity in the plasma and balanced reduced glutathione concentrations indicated sufficient efficiency of redox reactions. SOD activities were among those affected most strongly, with only the 1% HA group showing no effect on heavy metal redistribution as a result of HA administration.

Keywords: Antioxidant enzymes; Humic acids; Lead; Lead intoxication; Metal cofactors; Oxidative stress.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control
  • Humic Substances*
  • Lead / administration & dosage
  • Lead / analysis
  • Lead Poisoning / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Antioxidants
  • Humic Substances
  • Lead