Background: Chronic, high-level lead exposure is a known risk factor for kidney disease. The effect of current low-level environmental lead exposure is less well known, particularly among children, a population generally free from kidney disease risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes mellitus. Therefore, in this study, we investigated the association between lead exposure and kidney function in a representative sample of US adolescents. Methods: Participants included 769 adolescents aged 12 to 20 years for whom whole blood lead and serum cystatin C were measured in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted from 1988-1994. The association between blood lead level and level of kidney function (glomerular filtration rate [GFR]), determined by cystatin C-based and creatinine-based estimating equations, was examined. Results: Median whole blood lead level was 1.5 μg/dL (to convert to micromoles per liter, multiply by 0.0483), and median cystatin C-estimated GFR was 112.9 mL/min/ 1.73 m2. Participants with lead levels in the highest quartile (≥3.0 μg/dL) had 6.6 mL/min/1.73 m2-lower estimated GFR (95% confidence interval, -0.7 to -12.6 mL/min/1.73m2) compared with those in the first quartile (<1 μg/dL). A doubling of blood lead level was associated with a 2.9 mL/min/1.73 m2-lower estimated GFR (95% confidence interval, -0.7 to -5.0 mL/min/1.73 m2). Lead levels were also associated with lower creatinine-based estimated GFR levels, but the association was weaker than with cystatin C-based GFR and not statistically significant. Conclusions: Higher blood lead levels in a range below the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-designated level of concern (10 μg/dL) were associated with lower estimated GFRs in a representative sample of US adolescents. This finding contributes to the increasing epidemiologic evidence indicating an adverse effect of low-level environmental lead exposure.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine