Study: Elevated Cadmium Levels Linked to Fatal Liver Disease

Higher urine cadmium levels signal both chronic exposure to the heavy metal and point to potentially increased risks of fatal liver disease, according to a new study.

The research conducted by Johns Hopkins scientists found that cadmium, a heavy metal found in industrial emissions and tobacco smoke, is associated with a nearly 3.5 percent increased likelihood of death from liver disease, according to The researchers said the findings, which did not confirm cadmium as a direct cause of liver disease were sufficiently significant to all for more study.

The researchers reviewed data from a large population-based survey and said that the link between cadmium and liver disease “disproportionately” affects males, possibly because of protective effects seen in women’s bodies during menopause. In menopause, it is possible that the metal may be pulled from the liver and kidneys, where it be more dangerous, into bones where the toxin remains more stable, reported.

As we’ve long explained, cadmium has been linked to a number of dangerous health effects. In fact, we previously wrote that researchers found that low-level cadmium exposure is linked to hearing loss. Prior to that, we wrote 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 and 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 bones, and can cause cancer.

The accumulation occurs, the researchers explained, 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,” said study leader Omar Hyder, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, wrote. “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.”

In addition to being found in the environment, in part due to fossil fuel combustion and the burning of municipal waste, cadmium is found in tobacco smoke, considered the most critical single exposure source, according to Bloomberg News. Cadmium was also long a component in United States batteries and is found in pigments and plastic.

The researchers reviewed 12,732 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III); study data included interviews, physical examinations, blood and urine tests, and ultrasound scans, according to the Bloomberg News report.

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