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Cadmium Exposure and Hypertension in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

Cadmium induces hypertension in animal models. Epidemiologic studies of cadmium exposure and hypertension, however, have been inconsistent.

We aimed to investigate the association of blood and urine cadmium with blood pressure levels and with the prevalence of hypertension in U.S. adults who participated in the 1999–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

We studied participants ≥ 20 years of age with determinations of cadmium in blood (n = 10,991) and urine (n = 3,496). Blood and urine cadmium were measured by atomic absorption spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry, respectively. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels were measured using a standardized protocol.

The geometric means of blood and urine cadmium were 3.77 nmol/L and 2.46 nmol/L, respectively. After multivariable adjustment, the average differences in systolic and diastolic blood pressure comparing participants in the 90th vs. 10th percentile of the blood cadmium distribution were 1.36 mmHg [95% confidence interval (CI), −0.28 to 3.00] and 1.68 mmHg (95% CI, 0.57–2.78), respectively. The corresponding differences were 2.35 mmHg and 3.27 mmHg among never smokers, 1.69 mmHg and 1.55 mmHg among former smokers, and 0.02 mmHg and 0.69 mmHg among current smokers. No association was observed for urine cadmium with blood pressure levels, or for blood and urine cadmium with the prevalence of hypertension.

Cadmium levels in blood, but not in urine, were associated with a modest elevation in blood pressure levels. The association was stronger among never smokers, intermediate among former smokers, and small or null among current smokers. Our findings add to the concern of renal and cardiovascular cadmium toxicity at chronic low levels of exposure in the general population.