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Volume 52, Number 2, April 2019

Associations between environmental heavy metal exposure and childhood asthma: A population-based study 

Keh-Gong Wu, Chia-Yuan Chang, Chun-Yu Yen, Chou-Cheng Lai


Background and purpose: 

The health risks of environmental heavy metals have been of concern are well known. The greater likelihood of heavy metal contamination in the physical environment increases the risk of asthma, especially in children. This cross-sectional, population-based study sought to investigate associations between heavy metal exposure and childhood asthma or wheezing. 



Data from 5866 subjects, stratified into age groups of 2–5, 6–11, and 12–15 years, from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007–2012 conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were analyzed retrospectively. The primary outcome was active asthma. Variables included demographics, anthropometric, and clinical data. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to identify associations between blood heavy metal concentrations and adjusted odds (aORs) of active asthma.




Higher concentration of blood lead was associated with higher adjusted odds of having asthma (aOR = 1.08, 95% CI = 1.00–1.16), but no significant effect was shown for current wheezing or whistling. Age-stratified analysis showed that higher blood lead concentration was associated with higher risk for active asthma (aOR = 1.24, 95% CI = 1.08–1.42) and current wheezing or whistling (aOR = 1.19, 95% CI = 1.04–1.38) in the 6–11 years age group, while higher blood mercury concentration was associated with lower risk of current wheezing or whistling (aOR = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.90–0.99). The medium concentration of blood lead was associated with decreased risks of current wheezing or whistling (aOR = 0.54, 95% CI = 0.30–0.96) in the 2–5 years age group. 



Higher concentrations of blood lead are associated with higher odds of asthma in children aged 2–15 years. 


Key words:

AsthmaChildren Environmental pollutants Heavy metals National Health and Nutrition Survey