Cadmium is associated with type 2 diabetes in a superfund site lead smelter community in Dallas, Texas

Bert B. Little, Robert Reilly, Brad Walsh, Giang T. Vu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective: To test the hypothesis that cadmium (Cd) exposure is associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Materials and Methods: A two-phase health screening (physical examination and laboratory tests) was conducted in a lead smelter community following a Superfund Cleanup. Participants were African Americans aged >19 years to <89 years. Multiple logistic regression was used to analyze T2DM regressed on blood Cd level and covariates: body mass index (BMI), heavy metals (Ar, Cd, Hg, Pb), duration of residence, age, smoking status, and sex. Results: Of 875 subjects environmentally exposed to Cd, 55 were occupationally exposed to by-products of lead smelting and 820 were community residents. In addition, 109 T2DM individuals lived in the community for an average of 21.0 years, and 766 non-T2DM individuals for 19.0 years. T2DM individuals (70.3%) were >50 years old. Blood Cd levels were higher among T2DM subjects (p < 0.006) compared to non-T2DM individuals. Logistic regression of T2DM status identified significant predictors: Cd level (OR = 1.85; 95% CI: 1.14–2.99, p < 0.01), age >50 years (OR = 3.10; 95% CI: 1.91–5.02, p < 0.0001), and BMI (OR = 1.07; CI: 1.04–1.09, 0.0001). In meta-analysis of 12 prior studies and this one, T2DM risk was OR = 1.09 (95% CI: 1.03–1.15, p < 0.004) fixed effects and 1.22 (95% CI: 1.04–1.44, p < 0.02) random effects. Discussion: Chronic environmental Cd exposure was associated with T2DM in a smelter community, controlling for covariates. T2DM onset <50 years was significantly associated with Cd exposure, but >50 years was not. Meta-analysis suggests that Cd exposure is associated with a small, but significant increased risk for T2DM. Available data suggest Cd exposure is associated with an increased propensity to increased insulin resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4558
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • African-American
  • Cadmium
  • EPA superfund
  • Type 2 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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