Thursday, June 3, 2010

Health Care and Cadmium

Cadmium. Sounds like a super cool name for a new car, doesn't it? Wow, here the voiceover on the commercial: "Be the first on your block to drive the new Cadmium." Actually, you likely would not want to because of what that name means. According to, Cadmium can be very toxic, and is dangerous if it is swallowed or inhaled. It is used in a large number of industrial applications. In the United States, over 10 million pounds of cadmium are used industrially every year. While spontaneous recovery from mild cadmium exposure is common, doses as low as 10 milligrams can cause symptoms of poisoning. There is no accepted fatal dose amount.

Cadmium has no constructive purpose in the human body, according to Plus, cadmium and its compounds are extremely toxic even in low concentrations, and will bioaccumulate in organisms and ecosystems. In the 1950s and 1960s industrial exposure to cadmium was high, but as the toxic effects of cadmium became apparent, industrial limits on cadmium exposure have been reduced in most industrialized nations and many policy makers agree on the need to reduce exposure further. While working with cadmium it is important to do so under a fume hood to protect against dangerous fumes. Silver solder, for example, which contains cadmium, should be handled with care. Serious toxicity problems have resulted from long-term exposure to cadmium plating baths. Food is another source of cadmium. Plants may only contain small or moderate amounts in non-industrial areas, but high levels may be found in the liver and kidneys of adult animals. Cigarettes are also a significant source of cadmium exposure. Although there is generally less cadmium in tobacco than in food, the lungs absorb cadmium more efficiently than the stomach.

The uses for cadmium, according to, include:--component of several metal alloys.--Component of solder (metallic cement), particularly solder for aluminum.--Electroplating.--Nickel plating.--Engraving.--Cadmium vapor lamps.--Nickel-cadmium batteries.--Treatment of parasites in pigs and poultry.According to, the symptoms of ingested cadmium poisoning are: increased salivation, choking, vomiting, abdominal pain, anemia, painful spasms of the anal sphincter. And, when cadmium dust or powder is inhaled, the first symptoms are a sweet or metallic taste, followed by throat irritation.

Other symptoms that may appear in three to five hours include:
--Dry throat.
--Chest pain.
--Pulmonary edema, a congestive lung condition.
--Bronchospasm, the abnormal tightening of airways that may be accompanied by wheezing and coughing.
--Pneumonitis, inflammation of the lung.
--Muscle weakness.
--Leg pain.

When a person has exposure to cadmium in low doses over a long period of time, symptoms may include loss of sense of smell, cough, shortness of breath, weight loss, and tooth staining, according to Chronic cadmium exposure may cause damage to the liver and kidneys. The most common cause of cadmium poisoning is a lack of proper precautions in places where cadmium is used. In such industries, air quality should be regularly monitored. Cadmium-plated containers should never be used to store acidic foods such as fruit juices or vinegar. Fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, release cadmium fumes into the air. Chronic cadmium poisoning is also possible through soil or water contamination. This problem may occur with improper disposal of nickel-cadmium batteries used in items such as cameras.

Know the symptoms of cadmium poisoning, according to
Step 1: Inhalation of cadmium dust quickly causes respiratory and kidney problems, which can be fatal. Ingestion of even small amounts of cadmium can cause immediate damage to the liver and kidneys. The kidneys are usually affected first because most of the cadmium absorbed by the body is stored in the kidneys.
Step 2: Get a medical examination to diagnose cadmium poisoning. This is usually done clinically by diagnosing the symptoms, especially if cadmium exposure is already suspected. Cadmium poisoning generally may be confirmed by elevated levels of creatinine in the blood and urine.
Step 3: Provide gastric lavage or induce vomiting within 1 hour if cadmium salts have been ingested. Remove the patient from the cadmium exposure immediately and administer oxygen.
Step 4: Treat cadmium poisoning symptomatically because no effective treatment against the poisoning itself exists. Chelation therapy is contraindicated because it is generally toxic to the kidneys when combined with cadmium.
Step 5: Prevent future exposure to cadmium. Stop smoking and check products in your home for cadmium-containing compounds, especially fungicides. Store any nickel-cadmium batteries out of the reach of small children. If you use a well, have the cadmium level in your water checked.

Approximately 512,000 workers in the United States are in environments each year where a cadmium exposure may occur, according to Regulations that set permissible levels of exposure, however, are enforced to protect workers and to make sure that levels of cadmium in the air are considerably below levels thought to result in harmful effects. For much more detailed information about cadmium poisoning, the U.S. Department of Labor has posted the health effects on the OSHA site:

According to the Los Angeles times, for a metal that most Americans would be hard-pressed to locate on the periodic table much less when it's trying to pass itself off as an innocuous everyday component of innocuous everyday objects, cadmium certainly seems to be the "it" element of the day. McDonald's has decided to recall a lot -- a whole lot -- of Shrek drinking glasses because they're contaminated with cadmium, a heavy metal that can do unpleasant things in, and to, the body--about 12 million glasses because federal regulators found they contain the toxic metal cadmium, which poses health risks. The glasses have been sold for $2 apiece at McDonald's restaurants across the country as a promotional tie-in with the movie "Shrek Forever After." Purchasers will be advised to keep them away from children and to return them to McDonald's for a refund. That followed Wal-Mart's announcement in May that it was pulling Miley Cyrus-branded kids jewelry because it was tainted with, yes, cadmium.

Be careful if you work in areas that provide exposure to cadmium, and follow OSHA guidelines. Also, don't play around with batteries that contain cadmium. If you think you have been exposed to high levels of cadmium, you should consult your physician immediately, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Cadmium can be measured in blood, urine, hair and nails. Kidney and liver function tests can be done to see if cadmium has damaged them. These tests are often done in combination with other tests, such as a chest X-ray. You need to be aware of the possible sources of cadmium to limit your exposure. Not smoking cigarettes and eating a nutritious diet will help reduce your exposure and prevent adverse health effects. If your drinking water comes from a private well near a source of cadmium, you may want to have the water tested. Public water systems test for cadmium on a regular basis. If you live near a source of cadmium, you may want to have your garden soil tested for cadmium.

If you bought a Shrek drinking glass at McDonald's recently, return it to get your two bucks back and save your health. And, oh, yeah. If you get an offer to test drive a Cadmium, you may wish to pass up the temptation.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.


bre said...

I am a middle school teacher in NC and came across your site while researching some information about the periodic table for my chemistry class this year. I just wanted to thank you for the great information.

We would love it if you could write a few articles for us, but I understand if your busy so a link to some of the current articles would be very helpful as well to help us spread trusted resources to other teachers. I have included a link to our page about cadmium and its toxic effects in case you would like to help us out by linking to it, tweeting it, or adding it to your Facebook profile.

Thanks and keep the great resources coming

Bre Matthews

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