It has been assessed whether an internal dose of cadmium (Cd), as reflected by a Cd concentration in urine not yet sufficient to induce a significantly increased urinary excretion of various plasma proteins (microproteinuria defined as beta 2-microglobulin in urine greater than 300 micrograms/g creatinine, or retinol-binding protein in urine greater than 300 micrograms/g creatinine, or albumin in urine greater than 15 mg/g creatinine, or a combination of these), may affect the filtration reserve capacity of the kidney. The last was determined by measuring the difference between the baseline creatinine clearance and the maximal creatinine clearance after an acute oral load of protein (400 g of cooked red meat). In total 215 men were examined of whom eventually 87 Cd exposed workers (concentration of Cd in urine greater than 2 micrograms/g creatinine) from zinc/cadmium smelters and 92 control workers (concentration of Cd in urine less than 2 micrograms/g creatinine, absence of microproteinuria, normal fasting serum creatinine) were retained for data analysis performed separately for workers aged less or more than 50 years. Microproteinuria was present in 20 Cd workers, all older than 50. This study confirmed the previous observation that the age related decline of the baseline glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is accelerated in male workers with Cd induced microproteinuria; the same observation was made for the maximal GFR. It was found, however, that a renal Cd burden that had not yet caused microproteinuria did not impair the filtration reserve capacity of the kidney. This study therefore validates the previous estimate of the threshold effect concentration of Cd in urine (10 micrograms/g creatinine) that is intended to prevent the occurrence of microproteinuria in male Cd workers. It should be kept in mind, however, that because of the likely interference of the healthy worker effect, this conclusion may not be directly extrapolated to the general population.
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