Levels and temporal variations of urinary lead, cadmium, cobalt, and copper exposure in the general population of Taiwan
Toxic metal contamination in food products and the environment is a public health concern. Therefore, understanding human exposure to cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), cobalt (Co), and copper (Cu) levels in the general population of Taiwan is necessary and urgent. We aimed to establish the human biomonitoring data of urine toxic metals, exposure profile changes, and factors associated with metal levels in the general population of Taiwan. We randomly selected 1601 participants older than 7 years of age (36.9 ± 18.7 years (7–84 years)) from the Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan (NAHSIT) conducted during 1993–1996 (93–96) and 2005–2008 (05–08) periods and measured the levels of four metals in the participants’ urine samples using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. The median (range) levels of urinary Cd, Pb, Co, and Cu in participants from the NAHSIT 93–96 (N = 821)/05–08 (N = 780) were 0.60 (ND–13.90)/0.72 (ND–7.44), 2.28 (ND–63.60)/1.09 (0.04–48.88), 0.91 (0.08–17.30)/1.05 (0.05–22.43), and 16.87 (2.62–158.28)/13.66 (1.67–189.70) μg/L, respectively. We found that the urinary median levels of Pb and Cu in our participants were significantly lower in the NAHSIT 05–08 (Pb 1.09 μg/L, Cu 13.66 μg/L) than in the NAHSIT 93–96 (Pb 2.28 μg/L, Cu 16.87 μg/L; P < 0.01), whereas those of Cd and Co were significantly higher in the NAHSIT 05–08 (Cd 0.72 μg/L, Co 1.05 μg/L; P < 0.01). Youths had higher exposure levels of Pb, Co, and Cu than adults. Participants with alcohol consumption, betel quid chewing, or cigarette smoking had significantly higher median levels of urinary Pb or Cu (P < 0.01) than those without. Principal components and cluster analysis revealed that sex had different exposure profiles of metals. We concluded that levels of urinary Cd, Pb, Co, and Cu exposure in the general Taiwanese varied by age, sex, and lifestyles.
KeywordsTaiwan Human biomonitoring General population Metals Urine
Canadian Health Measures Survey
German Environmental Survey
Geometric standard deviation
Hierarchical clustering analysis
International Agency for Research on Cancer
Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry
Korea National Survey for Environmental Pollutants in the Human Body
Limit of detection
Method detection limit
Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
National Health Research Institutes
National Institute of Environmental Analysis
Principal component analysis
Standard reference material
We thank Dr. Jein-Wen Chen, Dr. Ya-Tang Liao, Dr. Yu-Te Chung, Dr. Hsiu-Ying Ku, and Mr. Yun-Hsiang Liu from the NHRI in Taiwan for their assistance with data and specimen collection.
PCH, SLW, SHL, and WHP conceived and designed the experiments. CWS performed the experiments. KWL analyzed the data. PCH and SLW contributed the reagents, materials, and analysis tools. KWL, PCH, and SLW wrote the paper. WHP directed the specimens and questionnaire collection. PCH and SLW contributed to the critical revision of the manuscript.
This study was funded by the NHRI (EO-99-SP-02, EM-105-PP-05, EH-102-PP-05, EH-103-PP-05, EM-105-SP-16, EM-105-PP-15, EM-106-PP12, EM-107-PP12).
Compliance with ethical standards
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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