A low intake of dietary cadmium induces specific dose-dependent functional and biochemical changes in the cardiovascular tissues of rats. Maximum changes occur when the cadmium intake is 10 to 20 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day. The changes reflect the accumulation of "critical" concentrations of cadmium in the cardiovascular tissues. The biologic activity of cadmium is demonstrated for intakes that approach those of the average American adult exposed to the usual environmental concentrations of the element but not to industrial concentrations. The sensitivity of the cardiovascular system to low doses of cadmium could not be anticipated by extrapolation from data on exposure to high concentrations of cadmium. The data support the hypothesis that ingested or inhaled environmental cadmium may contribute to essential hypertension in humans.

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