Cadmium toxicity can displace calcium in the body. Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal that serves no health-supporting function when present in the body. Cadmium is a carcinogenic and is extremely poisonous; it targets the cardiovascular, neurological, respiratory, reproductive, gastrointestinal, and renal systems. While cadmium intake in small amounts has negligible effects and doesn’t result in any noticeable symptoms, moderate to high amounts of cadmium toxicity can be revealed with testing and can cause some severe health issues. Burning fossil fuels releases cadmium to the air, and breathing it in can irritate the lungs. Large amounts of cadmium are linked to kidney damage, cancer, and bone fractures.
Cadmium Toxicity and Environmental Exposures
- Children today are commonly born with cadmium toxicity passed from mother to child via the placenta.
- Cadmium is found in fertilizer and sewage sludge which comes from contaminating agricultural soil.
- Cadmium is used for plating and corrosion treatment of iron and steel.
- Cadmium is also utilized in production of batteries, and is contained in spray paints and cutting cadmium and its ores.
- Once diagnosed, the dangerous effects of cadmium toxicity an be minimized by avoiding or removing the source of exposure as quickly as possible and ensuring the affected person is informed of ways to lessen the risk of exposure in the future.
- Some supplements like vitamin D and/or calcium can be helpful for symptom relief if the person is experiencing bone-related issues.
Sources of Cadmium Toxicity
- Alloy elements for lead, copper and tin.
- Batteries – widely used in nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries.
- Cigarette smoke.
- Plating on iron and steel products.
- Plastic stabilizers.
- Use as a dye for producing shades of yellow, orange and red.
Cadmium Toxicity and Health Issues
- Cadmium poisoning is caused by high concentrations of cadmium accumulating in your body.
- Ingested cadmium is usually stored in the liver, kidneys, and bones.
- Eliminating cadmium absorption naturally is a slow process, and cadmium can last for decades in the human body.
- One of the main causes of cadmium toxicity in the United States is cigarette smoke. The chemicals within cigarettes contain cadmium, and smokers are believed to ingest twice the daily amount of cadmium as non-smokers. People breathing in secondhand smoke also take in a higher amount of cadmium, as this is a form of environmental exposure. For the majority of the non-smoking population, cadmium poisoning comes from food.
- Marijuana use also impacts cadmium toxicity. The blood cadmium (BCd) level was higher in marijuana users, independent of the frequency of use. Both the frequency and duration of marijuana use were associated with higher BCd levels. In former users, the urinary cadmium (UCd) level was higher in those with high frequency of past use. High frequency of use was not associated with UCd, unless being exposed for more than 15 years. Long-term use as associated with high UCd levels, even at low frequency of exposure.
Cadmium Toxicity and Agriculture
- Sudden high levels of cadmium in soil can cause some crops to uptake the heavy metal.
- The rate of cadmium absorption depends on a whole host of factors, like the crop species, the quality of the soil (pH and salinity), and the presence of other elements.
- Proximity to certain industrial plants, particularly those involving construction and manufacturing, can also affect soil and sources of water for crops.
Cadmium Toxicity and the Workplace
- Cadmium poisoning can also occur in certain workplaces where cadmium is either used in the process or generated as a byproduct. Workers can be exposed to high cadmium levels and experience its toxic effects over time while smelting and mining for other metals.
- The risk of cadmium toxicity is particularly high in workplaces manufacturing batteries, plastic, coatings, and solar panels.
- Jobs that are associated with the occupational exposure of cadmium include:
- Composting and general waste collection (from dust or incinerating municipal waste)
- Landfill operations
- Metal machining
- Recycling of electronic parts or plastics
Disorders Associated With Cadmium Toxicity
- Acute effects are toxic pneumonitis, which is the inflammation of the walls of the alveoli in the lungs.
- Chronic effects include renal dysfunction, nephropathy and osteomalacia.
- Long term exposure can result in emphysema and lung cancer.
Symptoms of Cadmium Poisoning
Cadmium toxicity can affect major aspects of one’s health, though more studies are necessary to fully assess the potential risk to humans and the environment. The general symptoms for acute cadmium poisoning include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Flu-like symptoms
Cadimum Toxicity and Respiratory Health
- Cadmium is also classified as a probable carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agent when inhaled. This suggests that chronic cadmium exposure through inhalation may contribute to lung cancer. When inhaled consistently over time, cadmium may affect the lungs and breathing.
- Many studies associate chronic occupational inhalation of cadmium dust and cadmium fumes with an increased risk of respiratory problems, including:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which describes a group of lung diseases that can make breathing difficult
- Emphysema, characterized by damage to air sacs within the lungs
- Bronchitis, an inflammation of the bronchial tubes that carry oxygen to the lungs
- Chronic rhinitis, an inflammation of the mucus membranes in the nose
- Damage to the olfactory epithelium.
Cadmium Toxicity And Kidney damage
- The kidneys bear the brunt of the damage from chronic cadmium toxicity and exposure both via ingestion and inhalation.
- This is because the kidneys act as a filtration system, removing waste and excess fluid from the body.
- It can take up to 10 years of regular and consistent exposure for cadmium levels to build up enough to result in kidney damage, but animal studies have suggested some subtle changes to renal function even after acute exposure to cadmium.
- Most commonly, regular cadmium exposure has been linked to progressive renal tubular dysfunction.
- Some studies suggest that even at lower concentrations, cadmium intake can have some severe effects on the kidneys and general renal function. At high concentrations, chronic cadmium poisoning may even cause renal failure. Kidney stones are also more common in populations experiencing excessive cadmium exposure.
Cadmium Toxicity, Bones and Skeletal health
- Cadmium compounds can also accumulate in the bones.
- Bone diseases and skeletal health issues more often come as a side effect of renal issues as any damage to the kidneys may cause changes in how calcium and vitamin D are metabolized and absorbed.
- Severe chronic cadmium poisoning can contribute to bone lesions in later stages.
- This can eventually lead to osteoporosis (brittle, porous bones) and osteomalacia (a significant softening of bones), which can contribute to certain types of fractures and other effects.