People can come into contact with chemicals that may affect their health through food and drinking water. RIVM has studied how much cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury adults (aged 18–65) in 10 countries ingest via this route. In all countries covered by the study, the combined exposure to these four metals was too high: Adults who ingest  them at high amounts are at risk for kidney damage later in life. This means their kidneys do not function as well anymore. 

Too much cadmium and lead

Of the four metals covered by the study, the main contributors to the risk of kidney damage were cadmium and lead. This study was an initial exploratory study that RIVM conducted into the risks of combined exposure to the four metals mentioned above. It will be followed-up by additional research into the levels of these metals in blood and urine. Earlier,  RIVM conducted a study into the effects of the combined exposure to substances, including metals, on brain development. Back then, RIVM also concluded that the combined exposure to this group of substances was potentially too high.

Netherlands Nutrition Centre guidelines

Cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury are found in food because they are present in the soil. Thus, people can ingest too much cadmium and lead through grains and offal. They can also ingest too much lead through vegetables, fruit and drinking water. 

The fact that people may ingest too much of certain harmful substances does not necessarily mean that it would be better to stop consuming certain foods altogether. These foods also contain many healthy, necessary substances, such as healthy fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. People are advised to follow the guidelines of the Netherlands Nutrition Centre to ensure they eat and drink healthily. 

For this study, RIVM worked together with nine sister institutes and universities. The researchers wrote a scientific article about the research, which has been published in the scientific journal Food Additives & Contaminants.