Lead, mercury, and cadmium in blood and their relation to diet among Swedish adults

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The aim of the present study was to examine the body burden of lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), and cadmium (Cd) in blood among Swedish adults and the association between blood levels, diet and other lifestyle factors. The study was based on a subgroup (n = 273) of the national survey Riksmaten 2010-2011 (4-day food records and questionnaire). Lead, Hg, and Cd were measured in whole blood, and Cd additionally in urine, by mass or fluorescence spectrometry methods. The median values (5-95th percentiles) of the metals in blood were as follows: Pb: 13.4 (5.8-28.6) mu g/L, Hg: 1.13 (0.31-3.45) mu g/L, and Cd: 0.19 (0.09-1.08) mu g/L. All three metals increased with increasing age. Lead levels in blood were positively associated with intakes of game and alcohol, Hg was related to fish intake, and blood Cd related to smoking and low iron stores and to a low meat intake. Body burdens of the studied metals were generally below health based reference values, but several individuals had blood Pb levels above the reference point for possible nephrotoxic and developmental neurotoxic effects. As health effects cannot be excluded, individuals with high Pb exposure should aim at decreasing their body burden, both from food and from other exposure routes. (c) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Helena Bjermo
  • Salomon Sand
  • Cecilia Nalsen
  • Thomas Lundh
  • Helene Enghardt Barbieri
  • Monika Pearson
  • Anna Karin Lindroos
  • Bo A Jönsson
  • Lars Barregard
  • Per Ola Darnerud
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Pharmacology and Toxicology


  • Heavy metals, Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Diet, Blood
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-169
JournalFood and Chemical Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch