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Cadmium and mercury nephrotoxicity


Despite increasing attempts to control environmental pollution, changes in the distribution and bioavailability of toxic metals like mercury and cadmium are still occurring. Apart from natural processes, other contributory factors include the gradual spread of industrialization, the use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer and the acidification of Northern Hemisphere ground-water. Animals (including man and domestic varieties) can accumulate harmful concentrations of toxic metals1–5. We therefore looked for damage to the kidneys in seabirds contaminated with mercury and cadmium and made comparisons with kidneys from three other groups of animals: seabirds from an uncontaminated colony, metal-dosed birds and metal-dosed mice. We report here that, comparing all these groups of animals, invididuals with comparatively high levels of metals had nephrotoxic lesions of a similar type and severity. Moreover, the metal concentrations at which damage began and at which biochemical changes could be detected were below those presently considered as relatively safe for humans by the World Health Organization.

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Nicholson, J., Kendall, M. & Osborn, D. Cadmium and mercury nephrotoxicity. Nature 304, 633–635 (1983).

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