Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, mercury… Some metals are essential to the body while others have no biological function. But even essential, they can turn out to be toxic at high concentrations (carcinogenicity, bone, renal, cardiovascular, neurotoxic effects, etc.), knowing that all heavy metals are naturally present in trace amounts in the environment but that for many of them human activity has increased their presence. In France, the entire population including children is exhibited there as revealed the work of the Public Health France agency whose data are taken from the ESTEBAN * study.
The work was carried out on a sample of the general population made up of 1104 children and 2503 adults aged 6 to 74 years. These people have agreed to carry out biological samples (urine, blood and hair) and to answer a questionnaire on their lifestyle or their food consumption. It is thanks to the cross-analysis of the results of the samples and the questionnaires that the researchers were able to quantify the presence of these metals and better understand sources of exposure. These results are in addition to those published in September 2019 on substances from commonly used products and to those published in March 2020 concerning lead.
Higher levels of impregnation than 15 years ago
Public Health France recalls that “metals can be at the origin of the appearance of chronic diseases, of immune deficiency. or cancer. Measuring the impregnation of the population with these substances, coupled with the collection of information on their behavior or their eating habits, make it possible to identify sources of exposure on which to act in order to prevent the appearance of such pathologies. The results show that the exposure of the population concerns all participants, adults and children: more than 97% to 100% detection. For mercury and nickel, the levels measured in adults are equivalent to those found in the 2006-2007 ENNS study.
Above all, in relation to this ENNS study, the levels in arsenic, cadmium and chromium current measured in adults are higher. Another surprising finding: the levels measured, whether for children or adults, were higher than those found in most countries in Europe and North America except for nickel and copper. As for the sources of exposure, they are very numerous, like the different metals taken into account. If the first of these is diet, some other determinants are known: smoking increases cadmium and copper concentrations, medical implants increase chromium and fillings increase urinary mercury.
Why it is important to vary your fish consumption
This is why Santé Publique France notes that “the results of the Esteban study remind us of the need to further anchor the fight against smoking, including passive smoking, in order to reduce exposure to cadmium. In adults, tobacco resulted in a more than 50% increase in impregnation in smokers. But it is in the plate that it is advisable to take a closer look since the agency cites many examples. In fact, the consumption of fish and seafood influences the concentrations of arsenic, chromium, cadmium and mercury, and thea consumption of cereals those in cadmium, and those in copper if they come from organic farming (ditto for vegetables).
Fortunately, this is an area in which it is possible to reduce its exposure to heavy metals. Santé Publique France highlights the need to diversify food sources, especially for fish. “Fish and seafood have many nutritional qualities, but their consumption influences the concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, chromium and mercury. it is recommended to consume fish twice a week, including fatty fish, varying species and fishing grounds. », She indicates. Arsenic, mercury, lead and cadmium are the metals where the exceedance of health guideline values has been observed the most in the population.
For example, just under half of adults had cadmiuria (urine cadmium content) greater than the value recommended by ANSES **. Given the adverse effects metals on health of the increase in the levels of impregnation by arsenic, cadmium and chromium between the ENNS study and the Esteban study, Public Health France wishes to “pursue measures aimed at reducing exposure to these substances, by acting in particularly on sources of exposure. »A real public health issue according to Geneviève Chêne, its Managing Director. “The repetition of biomonitoring studies is necessary to follow changes in exhibitions and thus help estimate the impact of public policies aimed at reducing them. », She concludes.
* Health study on the environment, biomonitoring, physical activity and nutrition)
** National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety