Time trends and exposure determinants of lead and cadmium in the adult population of northern Sweden 1990–2014

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This study follows cadmium and lead concentrations in blood in the adult population in northern Sweden over 24 years.

Material and methods:

Concentrations of lead and cadmium were measured in single whole blood samples (B-Pb and B-Cd) from 619 men and 926 women participating in the Northern Sweden WHO MONICA Study on one occasion 1990–2014. Associations with smoking and dietary factors were investigated. Consumption of moose meat was asked for in 2014.


In the adult population in northern Sweden, the median B-Pb in 2014 was 11.0 μg/L in young (25–35 years) men and 9.69 μg/L in young women. In an older age-group (50–60 years), the median B-Pb was 15.1 μg/L in men and 13.1 μg/L in women. B-Pb decreased from 1990 to 2009, after which time no further decrease was observed. B-Pb was higher in smokers than in non-smokers. In never-smokers, positive associations were found between B-Pb and consumption of wine and brewed coffee (women only) in 2004–2014. Higher B-Pb with consumption of moose meat was demonstrated in men, but not in women. B-Cd was essentially stable over the whole period, but an increase in B-Cd, of 3% per year, was detected in never-smoking women between 2009 and 2014. In 2014, median B-Cd in never-smokers in the four groups was; 0.11 μg/L in younger men, 0.15 μg/L in younger women, 0.14 μg/L in older men, and 0.21 μg/L in older women. B-Cd was higher in smokers than in non-smokers. The only positive association between B-Cd and food items in 2004–2014 was with consumption of brewed coffee (men only).


The lack of a decrease in B-Cd from 1990 to 2014 and the absence of a further decrease in B-Pb after 2009 are unsatisfactory considering the health risks these metals pose in the general population at current concentrations.

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