From Health Facts
Jump to: navigation, search
Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2015-07-31 (EDT)

Cadmium is a heavy metal commonly used in industry, as it is a component of rechargeable batteries, used in metal alloy fabrication, and in metal plating. Long term cadmium exposure has been linked to hypertension, anemia, and hepatitis. It is considered one of the most toxic substances in the environment.


  • Cadmium is well absorbed through inhalation, sparingly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Low calcium, protein, zinc or iron intake increases cadmium absorption especially through the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Cadmium accumulates when absorbed as there is no cadmium elimination pathways in humans.
  • The most serious case of cadmium exposure in humans occurred in Japan in the 1940s due to drinking water contamination from a zinc mine.
  • Affected individuals suffer from back pain, chest pain, osteopenia, and kidney damage. Currently, one of the greatest contributors to cadmium exposure is cigarette smoking.[1]

Health Impact

Associated Conditions

Conditions associated with exposure to cadmium include:[2][3]


Common symptoms of cadmium toxicity include:[2]


  • Cadmium can be found in very high levels in seafood caught in contaminated waters.[4]
  • Industry:
  • Cadmium is often found in the environment with zinc. Historically, zinc mining has been a major source of water contamination with cadmium.
  • Cadmium is used in several industrial processes including alloy production, metal plating, and as a component of rechargeable batteries.[4]
  • Jewelry working with silver without appropriate personal protection can pose a significant cadmium exposure risk.[5]
  • Healthcare
  • Cadmium is used to dye medical waste bags red. When these bags are incinerated they release cadmium into the environment.[2]
  • Agriculture
  • Cadmium can be released into the environment from fertilizer and contaminate water and food sources.[2]

Diagnostic Testing

  • Urinary Testing
  • Urinary testing may be used to measure cumulative renal cadmium concentration, which reflects the overall cadmium burden in the body.[3]
  • Blood Chemistry
  • Measuring blood levels of cadmium reflects recent exposure.[3]


  • Oral EDTA may be beneficial in reducing cadmium stores.
  • Supplemtation with iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium may be beneficial in reducing cadmium levels.
  • Symptomatic and supportive treatment if often used in cadmium toxicity as there is currently no accepted means of reducing cadmium levels.[2]
  • Chelation therapy with EDTA or dimercaprol may increase toxic effects on the kidney.[4]
  • Other Therapies
  • There is some animal evidence that succimer and N-acetylcysteine may be beneficial in treating cadmium toxicity.[2]


  1. Hall AH, Shannon MW (2007) Shannon: Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose 4th ed Chap 75 Other Heavy Metals Elsevier
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Mcguigan MA (2011) Goldman: Goldman’s Cecil Medicine 24th ed Chap 21 Chronic Poisoning: Trace Metals and Others Saunders
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Chey H, Buchanan S (2008) Toxins in Everyday Life Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice (35)4
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Sitprijia V, Tungsanga K, Praditpornsilpa K (2011) Taal: Brenner and Rector’s The Kidney 9th ed Chap 82: Far East Saunders
  5. Blanc PD (2010) Mason: Murray and Nadel’s Textbook of Respiratory Medicine 5th ed Chap 68 Acute Pulmonary Responses to Toxic Exposures Saunders.