Exposure to arsenic, lead, copper and cadmium is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD), suggests a new comprehensive analysis of evidence published in the BMJ.
Researchers examined data from 37 epidemiological studies investigating the association of arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, and copper with CVD, involving almost 350,000 participants.
Comparing top versus bottom thirds of baseline levels, they found arsenic exposure was associated with a 23 per cent greater relative risk (RR) of CHD and a 30 per cent greater RR of composite CVD. Lead exposure was linked with an 85 per cent increased risk of CHD and a 43 per cent increased risk of CVD. RR for cadmium and copper were 1.33 and 1.81 for CVD, and 1.29 and 2.22 for CHD. Lead and cadmium were also associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke. However, mercury was not associated with any cardiovascular outcomes.
The authors said the findings reinforce the “often under-recognised” importance of environmental toxic metals in cardiovascular risk, beyond the roles of conventional behavioural risk factors. “Further detailed work, however, to better characterise these associations and to assess causality, is needed,” they concluded.