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Epidemiologic Study of Renal Function in Copper Smelter Workers

Ruth Lilis, José A. Valciukas, Jean-Phillipe Weber, Judith Malkin and Irving J. Selikoff
Environmental Health Perspectives
Vol. 54 (Mar., 1984), pp. 181-192
DOI: 10.2307/3429806
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3429806
Page Count: 12
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Epidemiologic Study of Renal Function in Copper Smelter Workers
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Abstract

A medical cross-sectional examination of a copper smelter work force was undertaken after environmental contamination with lead, cadmium and arsenic had been documented. A total of 920 subjects was examined, including active smelter employees, retired workers and copper mine employees who had never worked in the smelter. Slight to moderate absorption of lead and cadmium was definitely present in the active copper smelter employees, who had significantly higher levels of Pb-B, ZPP and Cd-B than retired employees and miners. Cd-U levels were higher in retired workers, who were also older and had, as a group, longer duration of exposure in the smelter. Cd-U did not exceed 10 μg/g creatinine, the level considered critical for nephrotoxicity, in any of the subjects. Median Cd-B level for active workers was 2.75 μg/L. Lead absorption was characterized by a relatively small proportion (16.7%) of active employees with Pb-B levels 40 μg/dL or higher. We were particularly interested in exploring the possibility that simultaneous exposure to lead and cadmium, although at levels not associated with nephrotoxicity for each metal separately, could result in renal function impairment. Distribution patterns of BUN and serum creatinine levels were unremarkable. Urinary β 2-microglobulin levels were less than 200 μg/g creatinine in 95% of copper smelter employees. There were no significant correlations between urinary β 2-microglobulin levels and Cd-U, Cd-B, Pb-B and ZPP or between urinary β 2-microglobulin excretion and serum creatinine or BUN levels. Urinary β 2-microglobulin levels were significantly correlated with age in the copper smelter workers, but not in the miners. Nevertheless, in the absence of any significant correlations between urinary β 2-microglobulin and Cd-U, Cd-B, a causal relationship with cadmium absorption cannot be affirmed. That kidney function could be impaired by long-term exposure in the smelter was only indirectly suggested. Effects on renal function at the low levels of cadmium and lead absorption that were observed in this smelter population are minimal.

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