Declining exposures to lead and cadmium contribute to explaining the reduction of cardiovascular mortality in the US population, 1988-2004

Adrian Ruiz-Hernandez, Ana Navas-Acien, Roberto Pastor-Barriuso, Ciprian M. Crainiceanu, Josep Redon, Eliseo Guallar, Maria Tellez-Plaza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Lead and cadmium exposures have markedly declined in the USA following the implementation of large-scale public health policies and could have contributed to the unexplained decline in cardiovascular mortality in US adults. We evaluated the potential contribution of lead and cadmium exposure reductions to explain decreasing cardiovascular mortality trends occurring in the USA from 1988-94 to 1999-2004. Methods: Prospective study in 15 421 adults ≥40 years old who had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1988-94 or 1999-2004. We estimated the amount of change in cardiovascular mortality over time that can be independently attributed to the intermediate pathway of changes in blood lead and urine cadmium concentrations. Results: There was a 42.0% decrease in blood lead and a 31.0% decrease in urine cadmium concentrations. The cardiovascular mortality rate ratio [95% confidence intervals (CIs)] associated with a doubling of metal levels was 1.19 (1.07, 1.31) for blood lead and 1.20 (1.09, 1.32) for urine cadmium. The absolute reduction in cardiovascular deaths comparing 1999-2004 to 1988-94 was 230.7 deaths/100 000 person-years, in models adjusted for traditional cardiovascular risk factors. Among these avoided deaths, 52.0 (95% CI 8.4, 96.7) and 19.4 (4.3, 36.4) deaths/100 000 person-years were attributable to changes in lead and cadmium, respectively. Conclusions: Environmental declines in lead and cadmium exposures were associated with reductions in cardiovascular mortality in US adults. Given the fact that lead and cadmium remain associated with cardiovascular disease at relatively low levels of exposure, prevention strategies that further minimize exposure to lead and cadmium may be needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1903-1912
Number of pages10
JournalInternational journal of epidemiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Cadmium
  • Cardiovascular mortality
  • Lead
  • Trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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