Relationships between blood chromium exposure and liver injury: Exploring the mediating role of systemic inflammation in a chromate-exposed population

J Environ Sci (China). 2024 Sep:143:224-234. doi: 10.1016/j.jes.2023.08.014. Epub 2023 Sep 2.


Hexavalent chromium and its compounds are prevalent pollutants, especially in the work environment, pose a significant risk for multisystem toxicity and cancers. While it is known that chromium accumulation in the liver can cause damage, the dose-response relationship between blood chromium (Cr) and liver injury, as well as the possible potential toxic mechanisms involved, remains poorly understood. To address this, we conducted a follow-up study of 590 visits from 305 participants to investigate the associations of blood Cr with biomarkers for liver injury, including serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), total bilirubin (TBIL), and direct bilirubin (DBIL), and to evaluate the mediating effects of systemic inflammation. Platelet (PLT) and the platelet-to-lymphocyte ratio (PLR) were utilized as biomarkers of systemic inflammation. In the linear mixed-effects analyses, each 1-unit increase in blood Cr level was associated with estimated effect percentage increases of 0.82% (0.11%, 1.53%) in TBIL, 1.67% (0.06%, 3.28%) in DBIL, 0.73% (0.04%, 1.43%) in ALT and 2.08% (0.29%, 3.87%) in AST, respectively. Furthermore, PLT mediated 10.04%, 11.35%, and 10.77% increases in TBIL, DBIL, and ALT levels induced by chromate, respectively. In addition, PLR mediated 8.26% and 15.58% of the association between blood Cr and TBIL or ALT. These findings shed light on the mechanisms underlying blood Cr-induced liver injury, which is partly due to worsening systemic inflammation.

Keywords: Blood chromate; Liver injury; Mediation analysis; Systemic inflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / blood
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / blood
  • Chromates* / blood
  • Chromates* / toxicity
  • Chromium* / blood
  • Chromium* / toxicity
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation* / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects


  • Chromium
  • Chromates
  • Biomarkers
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases
  • Environmental Pollutants