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Arterial structure and function and environmental exposure to cadmium
  1. R Schutte1,2,
  2. T Nawrot1,
  3. T Richart1,
  4. L Thijs1,
  5. H A Roels3,
  6. L M Van Bortel4,
  7. H Struijker-Boudier5,
  8. J A Staessen1
  1. 1
    Studies Coordinating Centre, Division of Hypertension and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation, Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  2. 2
    Subject Group Physiology, North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus), Potchefstroom, South Africa
  3. 3
    Industrial Toxicology and Occupational Medicine Unit, Université catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium
  4. 4
    Heymans Institute of Pharmacology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  5. 5
    Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Cardiovascular Research Institute, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  1. Dr Jan A Staessen, Studies Coordinating Centre, Laboratory of Hypertension, University of Leuven, Campus Gasthuisberg, Herestraat 49, bus 702, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium; jan.staessen{at}


Objectives: Few studies have addressed the effect of cadmium toxicity on arterial properties.

Methods: We investigated the possible association of 24 h urinary cadmium excretion (an index of lifetime exposure) with measures of arterial function in a randomly selected population sample (n  557) from two rural areas with low and high environmental exposure to cadmium.

Results: 24 h urinary cadmium excretion was significantly higher in the high compared with the low exposure group (p<0.001). Even though systolic (p  0.42), diastolic (p  0.14) and mean arterial pressure (p  0.68) did not differ between the high and low exposure groups, aortic pulse wave velocity (p  0.008), brachial pulse pressure (p  0.026) and femoral pulse pressure (p  0.008) were significantly lower in the high exposure group. Additionally, femoral distensibility (p<0.001) and compliance (p  0.001) were significantly higher with high exposure. Across quartiles of 24 h urinary cadmium excretion (adjusted for sex and age), brachial (p for trend  0.015) and femoral (p for trend  0.018) pulse pressure significantly decreased and femoral distensibility (p for trend  0.008) and compliance (p for trend  0.007) significantly increased with higher cadmium excretion. After full adjustment, the partial regression coefficients confirmed these associations. Pulse wave velocity (β  −0.79±0.27; p  0.004) and carotid (β  −4.20±1.51; p  0.006), brachial (β  −5.43±1.41; p  0.001) and femoral (β  −4.72±1.74; p  0.007) pulse pressures correlated negatively, whereas femoral compliance (β  0.11±0.05; p  0.016) and distensibility (β  1.70±0.70; p  0.014) correlated positively with cadmium excretion.

Conclusion: Increased cadmium body burden is associated with lower aortic pulse wave velocity, lower pulse pressure throughout the arterial system, and higher femoral distensibility.

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  • Funding: The International Lead Zinc Research Organization (ILZRO) supported the study from 25 January 1990 to 24 February 1994. The European Union (grant LSHM-CT-2006-037093 InGenious HyperCare) and the Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Vlaanderen, Ministry of the Flemish Community, Brussels, Belgium (grants OT/99/28, OT/00/25 and OT/05/49) provided support to the Studies Coordinating Centre. JAS is holder of the Pfizer Chair for Hypertension and Cardiovascular Research (

  • Competing interests: HAR was a member of the scientific review panel (health) for the Voluntary Risk Assessment Report on Lead and Lead Compounds drafted by ILZRO (Research Triangle Park, NC, USA), the European Bio-Research Consultants (EBRC Consulting GmbH, Hannover, Germany) and the Lead Development Association International (LDAint, London, UK) in the framework of the EC Chemical Bureau Existing Substances Programme. All other authors declare no conflicts of interest.