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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Estimation of the benchmark dose of urinary cadmium as the reference level for renal dysfunction: a large sample study in five cadmium polluted areas in China

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Shen Ke, Xi-Yu Cheng, Jie-Ying Zhang, Wen-Jing Jia, Hao Li, Hui-Fang Luo, Peng-He Ge, Ze-Min Liu, Hong-Mei Wang, Jin-Sheng He, Zhi-Nan Chen
Wichtige Hinweise
Shen Ke and Xi-Yu Cheng contributed equally to this work.

Competing interests

All authors have approved the final version of the manuscript for publication, and declared all relevant competing interests. There is no competing interest for this paper.

Authors’ contributions

SK and XYC participated in designing the present study, sample collection and data analysis as well as writing the manuscript. JYZ and WJJ participated in designing the study and data analysis. HL, HFL and PHG assisted with the sample collection and analysis. JSH, ZML and HMW made important contributions to the discussion of the present results. ZNC directed the study design and revised the manuscript in detail. All of the authors participated in a critical review and in the final approval of the manuscript.



Itai-itai disease primarily results from cadmium (Cd) exposure and is known as one of the four major pollution diseases in Japan. Cd pollution is more serious in several areas of China than in Japan. However, there is still a lack of information regarding the threshold level of Cd exposure for the adverse health effects in the general Chinese population. This study aims to evaluate the reference value of urinary Cd (UCd) for renal dysfunction in a Chinese population as the benchmark dose lower confidence limit (BMDL) based on a large sample survey.


A total of 6103 participants who lived in five Cd polluted areas of China participated in this study. We analyzed UCd levels as a biomarker of exposure and urinary β2-microglobulin (Uβ2-MG) levels as a renal tubular effect biomarker. The BMD studies were performed using BMD software. The benchmark response (BMR) was defined as a 10 % additional risk above the background.


There was a positive correlation between the UCd levels and the prevalence of Uβ2-MG. The BMD of UCd for Uβ2-MG was estimated for each province. The findings showed that the BMD levels were related to the participants’ geographic region, which may be partially due to the large differences in Cd exposure level, ethnic group, lifestyle and diet of the sample population in these study areas. The reference level of UCd for the renal effects was further evaluated by combining the five sets of data from all 6103 subjects. The overall BMDLs of UCd for Uβ2-MG with an excess risk of 10 % were 2.00 μg/g creatinine (μg/g cr) in males and 1.69 μg/g cr in females, which were significantly lower than the World Health Organization (WHO) threshold level of 5 μg/g cr for Cd-related renal effects.


The selection of the sample population and geographic region affected the BMDL evaluation. Based on the findings of this survey of a large sample population, the UCd BMDLs for Uβ2-MG in males with BMRs at 10 % were 2.00 μg/g cr. The BMD was slightly lower in females, which indicated that females may be relatively more sensitive to Cd exposure than males.
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