Urinary uranium and kidney function parameters in professional assistance workers in the Epidemiological Study Air Disaster in Amsterdam (ESADA)

Joost A Bijlsma, Pauline Slottje, Anja C Huizink, Jos W R Twisk, Gijsbert B van der Voet, Frederik A de Wolff, Frank Vanhaecke, Luc Moens, Tjabe Smid
Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation 2008, 23 (1): 249-55

BACKGROUND: The Epidemiological Study Air Disaster in Amsterdam (ESADA) aimed to assess long-term health effects in professional assistance workers involved in the 1992 air disaster in Amsterdam. As part of ESADA indications of nephrotoxicity due to exposure to uranium from the balance weights of the crashed aircraft were assessed.

METHODS: Data of a historically defined cohort of 2499 (exposed and non-exposed) firefighters, police officers and hangar workers were collected 8.5 years after the disaster. Urinary uranium concentrations were determined by sector field inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Urine albumin-creatinine ratio and fractional excretion of beta(2)-microglobulin were calculated from a single-spot urine specimen and simultaneous blood sample. Exposed assistance workers were compared with their non-exposed colleagues, and associations between uranium and kidney function parameters were explored.

RESULTS: Median uranium concentrations were around 2 ng/g creatinine. Median values of albumin-creatinine ratio and fractional excretion of beta(2)-microglobulin were well below the level for microalbuminuria and for tubular damage, respectively. No statistically significant differences between exposed and non-exposed workers were found in uranium concentrations and kidney function parameters, although exposed hangar workers had lower uranium concentrations. No statistically significant associations were found between uranium concentrations and kidney function parameters in the total cohort.

CONCLUSIONS: Occupational exposure to the air disaster in Amsterdam was neither significantly associated with higher uranium concentrations, nor with disturbed kidney function parameters. In this large cohort of professional assistance workers, urinary uranium concentrations were in the low range compared with previously published reference populations. No indications of nephrotoxicity were found at urinary uranium concentrations around 2 ng/g creatinine.

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