Arsenic, cadmium, chromium… All French people are contaminated with heavy metals, including children

Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, nickel… An impressive list of heavy metals with multiple harmful effects on health is present in the body of the entire French population, including children. And at levels which are progressing and often exceeding those observed in our European neighbors and in North America.

This disturbing picture comes from the major epidemiological survey Esteban (Health study on the environment, biomonitoring, physical activity and nutrition), piloted for several years by Public Health France (SpF). The results were published on Thursday 1is July, after a section focused on lead in 2020 and so-called “everyday” pollutants in 2019. It is, moreover, the first time that a study has made it possible to measure the level of exposure at the country level children to these metals. The previous one, the national health nutrition study (ENNS), carried out between 2006 and 2007, only concerned adults.

The work was carried out between April 2014 and March 2016 on a large sample (1,104 children and 2,503 adults aged 6 to 74), representative of the French population. They are based on biological samples (urine, blood and hair) and a questionnaire on lifestyle or eating habits. Their cross-analysis made it possible to quantify the presence of these metals in the population and to better understand the sources of exposure.

Public Health France reminds that these metals are not harmless: they can be the cause of the appearance of chronic diseases (with bone, kidney, cardiovascular or neurotoxic effects), immune deficiency or even cancer.

Cadmium, a cumulative toxicant

The main results show that the contamination is generalized, increasing and superior to other countries. The exposure of the population to these metals concerns “All adult and child participants” : over 97% to 100% detection depending on the substance. For mercury and nickel, the concentration levels measured in adults are equivalent to those found in the 2006-2007 ENNS study.

On the other hand, they are increasing for arsenic, cadmium and chromium. With exceedances of the health guide values ​​for arsenic and cadmium, also observed for mercury (and lead in the 2020 study). For cadmium, nearly half of the French adult population has levels higher than the value recommended by the National Health Security Agency (ANSES).

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