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Biometals

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 485–489 | Cite as

Cadmium and health in the 21st Century – historical remarks and trends for the future

  • Gunnar F. Nordberg
Article

Abstract

The first health effect of cadmium (Cd) was lung damage, reported in workers already in the 1930's, while bone effects and proteinuria were reported in the 1940's. After World War II, a bone disease with fractures and severe pain, the itai-itai disease, a form of Cd-induced renal osteomalacia, was identified in Japan. Subsequently, the toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics of Cd were described including its binding to the protein metallothionein. International warnings of health risks from cadmium pollution were issued in the 1970's. WHO, 1992, identified renal dysfunction as the critical effect and a crude quantitative evaluation was presented. In the 1990's population groups in China exposed to Cd via rice were studied and new information on skeletal, renal and reproductive toxicity of Cd was obtained in the ChinaCad project. There was a decrease in Bone Mineral Density (BMD), an increased prevalence of fractures and an increased urinary content of marker proteins of renal dysfunction among persons with long term exposure to Cd. The development of such biomarkers can be seen as a result of applied `proteomics' research. Variation in metallothionein gene expression was related to development of renal dysfunction, supporting the usefulness of this `genomic' approach. The ongoing rapid development of `genomics' and `proteomics' technologies will improve possibilities for molecular epidemiology studies in the future, providing an even better basis for preventive action. In many countries, Cd exposures are now under better control than in the past. The target for the 21st century is to achieve a totally acceptable exposure situation without adverse health effects from Cd.

cadmium health effects history humans 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gunnar F. Nordberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical MedicineUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden E-mail

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