Heavy metals: all French people are contaminated, according to Public Health France

Heavy metals: all French people are contaminated, according to Public Health France
Heavy metals: all French people are contaminated, according to Public Health France

The institution is based on the results of a large study including a section on heavy metals. Smoking, but also food are the main culprits.

Santé Publique France recently published the results of a large study on the environment, biomonitoring, physical activity and nutrition. This includes a section on exposure to heavy metals. We learn that compared to the rest of Europe and North America, the entire French population is particularly exposed to these dangerous substances.

This work, carried out on 3,607 people aged 6 to 74, included multiple biological samples as well as a questionnaire on the framework and lifestyle. Cross-analysis of these results showed that 97-100% of participants were exposed to at least one of these 27 heavy metals.

Exposure of the general population on the rise

For some, such as urinary nickel or mercury in the hair, the levels measured have not changed compared to a previous study from 2006-2007. On the other hand, some are significantly higher; this is the case with cadmium and chromium, which are particularly harmful. Among the 27 metals tested, lead is the only one for which the exposure level has fallen.

Its rate remains worrying, however, with a “exceeding health guideline values”. The same goes for inorganic arsenic, which is highly carcinogenic, which exceeds this threshold in nearly a third of adults. It is even worse for cadmium, a metal that is also carcinogenic: 50% of participants, all ages combined, had a calcium concentration above the threshold recommended by ANSES.

Focus on food and smoking

For Santé Publique France, the sources of exposure are very variable, but one of them is recurrent: food. It can be seen that for certain metals, the curve of the rates measured in the population closely follows that of certain foods, which strongly suggests a correlation. For example, the consumption of seafood would influence “the concentrations of arsenic, chromium, cadmium and mercury”. Against all odds, biological agriculture would also be one of the suspects; the vegetables and cereals from these sectors would be a source of copper. Normal cereal crops, on the other hand, are believed to contain cadmium.

But not all of these contaminants come exclusively from our plate. Consumption of tobacco, for example, is known to massively influence the concentration of cadmium and copper. For example, there is cadmium impregnation 50% higher in adult smokers. Certain invasive medical devices can also participate; this is the case of medical implants in chrome. The dental fillings, they would be a source of mercury contamination.

To maintain its level of heavy metals at tolerable values, Santé Publique France provides a few leads. First priority: the fight against smoking, including passive smoking. You should also diversify your diet “Particularly concerning fish”, despite their obvious nutritional qualities. The institution proposes, for example, to vary the species and the fishing grounds.

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