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Cadmium

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of CoalSwarm and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.

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Cadmium, a a soft, blue-white malleable, lustrous heavy metal or a grayish-white powder that is insoluble in water. Cadmium is toxic and carcinogenic and it has been reported inside the tobacco industry to be present in cigarette smoke. Cadmium is also found in sewage sludge, coal, and coal waste.[1][2] The U.S. EPA limits cadmium concentrations in drinking water to 0.005 mg/L or 5 parts per billion.[3] In sewage sludge applied to land, the U.S. EPA limits cadmium to a concentration of 85 parts per million.[4]

Uses and Presence in the Environment

According to the U.S. EPA,[5] "Cadmium is used primarily for metal plating and coating operations, including transportation equipment, machinery and baking enamels, photography, and television phosphors. It is also used in nickel-cadmium solar batteries and pigments." Cadmium can contaminate drinking water due to corrosion of galvanized pipes; erosion of natural deposits; discharge from metal refineries; and runoff from waste batteries and paints.[6] In the Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey, a 2009 test of 84 samples of sewage sludge from around the U.S., the EPA found cadmium in every sample in concentrations ranging from 0.21 to 11.8 parts per million.[7]

Toxicity

Acute exposure to cadmium may result in flu-like symptoms of weakness, fever, headache, chills, sweating, and muscular pain. According to OSHA, "Acute pulmonary edema usually develops within 24 hours and reaches a maximum by three days. If death from asphyxia does not occur, symptoms may resolve within a week."[8] Cadmium is a carcinogen. The most serious consequence of chronic exposure is lung and prostate cancer. Other chronic effects are kidney damage, pulmonary emphysema and bone disease (osteomalcia and osteoporosis). Cadmium may also cause anemia, teeth discoloration, and loss of the sense of smell.[9]

Children with higher cadmium levels are three times more likely to have learning disabilities and participate in special education, according to a 2012 Harvard study.[10]

Cadmium in Cigarette Smoke

British American Tobacco Company notes in the following document that it is present in tobacco and cigarette smoke and can cause pulmonary emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

It has been reported (1) that the inhalation of cadmium fumes can produce pulmonary emphysema and chronic bronchitis, with an accumulation of cadmium in the lungs, liver and kidney. In addition, several papers have recently been published which state that cadmium is present in tobacco and cigarette smoke and that there is a higher level of cadmium in the lungs and livers of smokers compared to nonsmokers. Work was therefore initiated to determine whether these published values were realistic... [later in report] ....For tobacco, the level is 1-2 ppm which agrees well with published data...[11]

Related Sourcewatch resources

  • Project 1730 (also known as the "Cadmium Project," an effort to reduce the amount of cadmium in tobacco)

External resources

References

  1. "Heavy Metals Naturally Present in Coal & Coal Sludge" Sludge Safety Project, accessed November 2009
  2. Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey Report, US EPA website, Accessed August 17, 2010.
  3. U.S. EPA, Drinking Water Contaminants: Cadmium, Accessed August 3, 2010
  4. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40, Chapter 1, Subchapter O, PART 503—Standards for the Use or Disposal of Sewage Sludge, Subpart B—Land Application, Pollutant Limits
  5. U.S. EPA, Drinking Water Contaminants: Cadmium, Accessed August 3, 2010
  6. U.S. EPA, Drinking Water Contaminants, Accessed August 3, 2010
  7. Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey Report, US EPA website, Accessed August 28, 2010.
  8. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Safety and Health Topics: Cadmium - Health Effects, Accessed August 3, 2010
  9. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Safety and Health Topics: Cadmium - Health Effects, Accessed August 3, 2010
  10. Marla Cone, "Is cadmium the new lead? Link reported between the ubiquitous metal and kids with learning disabilities." Environmental Health News, February 10, 2012.
  11. CWA, British American Tobacco Company Limited The Cadmium Content of Tobacco and Smoke Report. October 10, 1972. Bates No. 105552233/2246

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