These analyses explore whether a gradient of exposure to four potential endocrine disrupting metals can be detected in workers of different occupational groups and industries, in two national population surveys.
Blood levels of lead (PbB), cadmium (CdB) and mercury (HgB), as well as urinary levels of arsenic (AsU) were measured in the National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003–2010 and the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) 2007–2013. Data from participants aged 16–65 were analysed to identify industries and occupational groups with higher levels. T-tests and one-way ANOVAs were performed to explore differences in the biomarkers’ levels according to industry, occupation and sex.
Geometric means (GMs) in NHANES and CHMS were respectively 1.24 and 1.13 µg/dL for PbB, 0.32 and 0.34 µg/L for CdB, 0.96 and 0.78 µg/L for HgB, and 9.96 and 10.61 µg/L for AsU. In NHANES, men had higher levels of PbB (mean difference (MD)=0.75 µg/L, 95% CI:0.70–0.81) and HgB (MD=0.27; 95% CI:0.18–0.36), and there were no differences between men and women for CdB and AsU. In both surveys, the Utilities and Construction industry group had higher GMs of PbB (NHANES: 1.98 µg/dL; CHMS: 1.54 µg/dL) and CdB (NHANES: 0.35 µg/L; CHMS: 0.45 µg/L), and occupations in Health Care and Social Services had the highest HgB GMs (NHANES: 1.16 µg/L; CHMS: 0.97 µg/L).
Results show that certain occupational groups may incur higher exposures to potential endocrine disrupting metals. This should raise attention on workers, considering increasing evidence on the possible effects of such exposures in the general population.