A new study reveals that people with increased urine cadmium levels are about 3.5 times likelier to die of liver disease when compared with people with lower levels of the heavy metal. Cadmium in the urine typically signals ongoing exposure to the metal from industrial emissions and tobacco smoke.
The study, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins, did not confirm that cadmium directly leads to liver disease, but the research does suggest that an association between the adverse reaction and the heavy metal exists, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The researchers reviewed data compiled from a large population-based survey and found that the link “disproportionately” affects males, which may be due to the protective effects seen in women’s bodies when they are going through menopause. During that process, it is possible that cadmium may be pulled from the liver and kidneys, where it might be more dangerous, and into bones where the toxin remains more stable, HealthNewsDigest.com reported.
Cadmium has been linked to an array of dangerous health effects. In fact, another study previously revealed that low-level cadmium exposure is linked to hearing loss. Prior to that, cadmium had been linked to breast cancer in scientific studies.
Cadmium, considered an even more dangerous toxic metal than lead, is a known carcinogen; can interfere with brain development in very young children; and can lead to kidney, bone, lung, and liver disease. Once in the body, cadmium can remain for decades. Should sufficient cadmium accumulate in the body, it can degrade the kidneys and the bones, and can cause cancer.
The Johns Hopkins researchers explained that the accumulation occurs because of cadmium’s long chemical half-life. Study findings appear online in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery.
“We already know about the health hazards of heavy metals like lead and mercury, but we don’t know much about what cadmium does to the body,” study lead, Omar Hyder, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Johns Hopkins Medicine. “In mice, chronic cadmium exposure has been shown to cause liver failure, but we need to understand more about the factors that may cause liver disease in humans, and whether we can do anything to prevent it.”
Cadmium is found in the environment, partly due to fossil fuel combustion and the burning of municipal waste. Cadmium is also found in tobacco smoke, the most critical single exposure source, according to Bloomberg News. Cadmium was also long a component in United States-manufactured batteries and is found in pigments and plastics, as well.
For this study, the researchers reviewed 12,732 participants from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Data included interviews, physical examinations, blood and urine tests, and ultrasound scans, according to a Bloomberg News report.