Renal function in relation to low-level environmental lead exposure

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2019 Jun 1;34(6):941-946. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfy279.


Background: Numerous studies suggested that occupational or environmental exposure to lead adversely affects renal function. However, most studies lost relevance because of the substantially lower current environmental lead exposure and all relied on serum creatinine to estimate glomerular filtration. We investigated the association of estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), estimated from serum creatinine, cystatin C or both, with blood lead (BPb) using the baseline measurements of the ongoing Study for Promotion of Health in Recycling Lead (SPHERL; NCT02243904) in newly hired workers prior to significant occupational lead exposure.

Methods: Among 447 men (participation rate, 82.7%), we assessed the association of eGFR and the urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio (ACR) with BPb across thirds of the BPb distribution using linear regression analysis. Fully adjusted models accounted for age, blood pressure, body mass index, the waist-to-hip ratio, smoking, the total-to-high-density-lipoprotein ratio, plasma glucose, serum γ-glutamyltransferase and antihypertensive drug treatment.

Results: Age averaged 28.7 (SD, 10.2) years (range, 19.1-31.8). Geometric mean BPb concentration was 4.34 μg/dL (5th-95th percentile interval, 0.9-14.8). In unadjusted and adjusted analyses, eGFR estimated from serum creatinine [mean (SD), 105.26 (15.2) mL/min/1.73 m2], serum cystatin C [mean (SD), 127.8 (13.8) mL/min/1.73 m2] or both [mean (SD), 111.9 (14.8) mL/min/1.73 m2] was not associated with BPb (P ≥ 0.36), whereas ACR [geometric mean, 4.32 mg/g (5th-95th percentile interval, 1.91-12.50)] was lower with higher BPb.

Conclusions: At the BPb levels observed in this study, there was no evidence for an association between renal function and lead exposure.

Keywords: eGFR; environmental exposure; lead; occupational medicine; renal function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Blood Pressure Determination
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Cystatin C / blood
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Kidney / drug effects*
  • Kidney Function Tests
  • Lead / adverse effects*
  • Lead / blood
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Cystatin C
  • Lead
  • Creatinine