Exposure to cadmium speeds up cell aging: study

Washington – Exposure to the toxic metal cadmium can cause premature aging of cells and lead to health issues, suggests a study from George Washington University.

Researchers examined blood and urine samples from more than 6,700 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2002. They measured cadmium concentration in the blood samples and telomeres (caps that protect the end of chromosomes) using a polymerase chain reaction.

Researchers found higher exposure to cadmium resulted in shorter telomeres. When telomeres become too short, the cell cannot divide, potentially resulting in chronic health issues such as kidney disease, according to a press release. Participants in the highest group of cadmium concentration had telomeres that appeared on average 11 years older than their chronological age and were 6 percent shorter than those of participants in the lowest group, according to the press release.

The study findings suggest cadmium can be harmful at levels below current safety standards.

People are exposed to small amounts of cadmium through breathing in tobacco smoke, eating fruits and vegetables from contaminated soil, or living near an industrial site.

The study was published online Dec. 10 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.