The Case For Cadmium and Lead Heavy Metal Screening

Am J Med Sci. 2021 Oct;362(4):344-354. doi: 10.1016/j.amjms.2021.05.019. Epub 2021 May 25.


Exposure to cadmium and lead is widespread, and is related to environmental contamination, occupational sources, food, tobacco and other consumer products. Lower socioeconomic status increases the risk of heavy metal exposure and the diseases associated with cadmium and lead toxicity. Concurrent toxicity with both cadmium and lead is likely but has not often been assessed. There is now substantial evidence linking cadmium and lead to many diseases including hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, cancer, coronary artery disease, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and lung disease. Both chronic renal failure and ischemic heart disease patients have been treated separately in recent studies with calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (Ca EDTA) chelation therapy. In patients with CKD, serum creatinine 1.5-4.0 mg/dL, and increased body lead burden, weekly low dose chelation with Ca EDTA slowed the rate of decline in renal function in diabetics and non-diabetics. In patients with a history of myocardial infarction, the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) study showed that Ca EDTA chelation decreased the likelihood of cardiovascular events, particularly in diabetics. Ca EDTA chelation administered carefully at lower dosage (<50 mg/kg per week) is generally safe. In the past, acute renal failure associated with much higher dosage was reported. We suggest that the preponderance of the evidence favors a more activist approach towards diagnosis and possible intervention in heavy metal toxicity.

Keywords: Cadmium; Lead toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cadmium Poisoning / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Lead Poisoning / diagnosis*
  • Mass Screening* / organization & administration
  • Mass Screening* / statistics & numerical data