Cadmium and mercury exposure over time in Swedish children

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Abstract

Purpose

Knowledge about changes in exposure to toxic metals over time remains very sparse, in particular for children, the most vulnerable group. Here, we assessed whether a reduction in environmental pollution with cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg) caused a change in exposure over time. In total, 1257 children (age 4–9) in two towns in Sweden were sampled once in 1986–2013. Blood concentrations of Cd (b-Cd; n=1120) and Hg (b-Hg; n=560) were determined.

Results

The median b-Cd was 0.10 (geometric mean 0.10; range 0.010–0.61) μg/L and b-Hg was 0.91 (geometric mean 0.83; range 0.021–8.2) μg/L. Children living close to a smelter had higher b-Cd and b-Hg than those in urban and rural areas. There was no sex difference in b-Cd or b-Hg, and b-Cd and b-Hg showed no significant accumulation by age. b-Cd decreased only slightly (0.7% per year, p<0.001) over the study period. In contrast, b-Hg did show a clear decrease over the study period (3% per year, p<0.001).

Conclusions

The exposure to Cd was very low but still might increase the risk of disease later in life. Moreover, b-Cd only showed a minor decrease, indicating that Cd pollution should be further restricted. b-Hg was relatively low and decreasing, probably because of reduced use of dental amalgam and lower Hg intake from fish. The b-Cd and b-Hg levels decreased much less than the levels of lead in the blood as previously found in the same children.

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