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Nickel exposure and prevalent albuminuria and β2-microglobulinuria: evidence from a population-based study


Background High exposure to nickel could induce renal dysfunction in rodents and occupational workers. However, little is known about the effects of non-occupational exposure to nickel on renal health in the general population. We aimed to examine the associations of urinary nickel concentrations with albuminuria and β2-microglobulinuria in Chinese adults.

Methods 2115 non-institutionalised Chinese men and women aged 55–76 years from Beijing and Shanghai were included. Urinary nickel concentrations were assessed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy. Plasma uric acid, urea nitrogen, C reactive protein and urinary albumin, β2–microglobulin and creatinine were measured. Albuminuria was defined as urinary albumin ≥30 mg/g creatinine, and β2-microglobulinuria was defined as urinary β2-microglobulin ≥200 µg/g creatinine.

Results Median concentration of urinary nickel was 3.95 μg/g creatinine (IQR: 2.57–6.71 μg/g creatinine), and prevalence of albuminuria, β2–microglobulinuria and both albuminuria and β2-microglobulinuria was 22.1%, 24.5% and 9.7%, respectively. Comparing the highest with the lowest quartile of urinary nickel, the ORs (95% CIs) were 1.99 (1.46 to 2.78) for albuminuria, 1.44 (1.07 to 1.95) for β2–microglobulinuria, and 2.95 (1.74 to 4.97) for both albuminuria and β2-microglobulinuria, after adjustment for demographic characteristics, lifestyle behaviours, body mass index, hypertension and diabetes. The association remained significant when further controlling for inflammatory markers or other heavy metals (all p trend <0.05).

Conclusions This study suggested that urinary nickel levels were positively associated with albuminuria and β2-microglobulinuria in Chinese men and women, who had relatively low background nickel exposure. More prospective studies are needed to confirm our findings.


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