Effects of Exposure to Lead and Cadmium on Health of Inhabitants of Abandoned Metal Mine Area in Korea

Abstract

People living near abandoned mines are at increased risk of exposure to toxic metals. We surveyed 4500 inhabitants with the mean age of 68.5 years old (male: 1768, female: 2732) living near 104 abandoned metal mines from 2013 to 2017 (the 2nd phase health survey in Korea). We conducted personal interviews, blood and urine sampling, and analyzed the concentrations of lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) in whole blood and Cd in urine using a graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometer. The geometric means of blood Pb, blood Cd, and urine Cd were 2.27 μg/dL, 1.42 μg/L, and 1.66 μg/g creatinine, respectively. The level of metal exposure was lower than that reported from the first phase health survey in Korea (2008‒2011) but was higher than in the general population of Korea. Blood Pb was higher in males while blood Cd and urine Cd were significantly higher in females. Blood Pb was highest in the 40‒59 age group, while blood and urine Cd levels continuously increased until age 80 or older. The Cd levels in blood and urine were affected by consumption of locally produced rice and duration of residence near abandoned mines. Furthermore, negative correlations were observed between blood Pb and blood and urine Cd levels. Additionally, 252 of the 4500 subjects exceeded the thresholds of blood Cd or urine Cd levels. Together, these findings suggest that Cd has more sustainable and adverse health effects on the abandoned mine inhabitants, who are mostly aged. Therefore, continuous biomonitoring and risk assessment to environmental health risks are necessary for environmental pollution control and health promotion.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Chung-Ang University Research Scholarship Grants in 2018. This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Environment Research (NIER), funded by the Ministry of Environment (MOE) of the Republic of Korea (NIER-2018-01-02-058).

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Correspondence to Jung-Duck Park.

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Moon, JY., Eom, SY., Seo, JW. et al. Effects of Exposure to Lead and Cadmium on Health of Inhabitants of Abandoned Metal Mine Area in Korea. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 80, 490–498 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-021-00813-7

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