What does lead poisoning do to you

Even a little is poisonous

However, study results indicate that exposure below this limit value damages the kidneys and increases cardiovascular mortality. Scientists working with Eswar Krishnan from Stanford University in California have now shown in the "Annals of Internal Medicine" that even low blood lead levels increase the risk of gout (2012 Aug; 175 (4): 233-241).


Gout from lead exposure


As part of their study, they used data from more than 6,100 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from four years. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to provide nationally representative statistics on the state of health of the US population. Krishnan and colleagues divided the test subjects into four groups based on their blood lead concentrations and calculated the prevalence of gout for each of these groups.


In the group with the highest lead exposure, the subjects had an average of 39.5 µg / l (0.19 µmol / l) lead in their blood, i.e. less than a sixth of the limit value considered safe by the WHO and the US authorities. The prevalence of gout in this group was 6 percent, more than three times that of the group with the lowest blood lead exposure. There the blood lead levels averaged only 8.9 µg / l (0.04 µmol / l) and the gout prevalence was 1.76 percent.


Even taking into account various risk factors such as kidney function, diuretic use, high blood pressure and body mass index, the subjects with the highest lead exposure had a 3.6 times higher risk of gout than those with the lowest lead concentrations in the blood.


Lead exposure below the threshold value currently applicable in the USA also significantly increases the risk of developing gout. This result suggests that there is no limit below which lead exposure is safe, the authors conclude. They are therefore calling for the national limit values ​​to be lowered and for further efforts to be made to reduce the population's exposure to the heavy metal.


Ashwini R. Sehgal, professor at Case Western Reserve University, thinks this is necessary in an accompanying editorial in the »Annals« (2012 Aug; 157 (4): 292-293). The epidemiologist cites Germany as a shining example, where the Human Biomonitoring Commission of the Federal Environment Agency abolished the limit values ​​for blood lead concentrations back in 2010. "Any definition of an effective limit for blood lead exposure would be arbitrary and therefore unjustified," write members of the commission in an article in the "International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health" (doi: 10.1016 / j.ijheh.2010.04.002).