When I stumbled by the words “Health Effects of Cadmium”, I was kind of baffled because, to me, Cadmium was just a remarkably profitable transition metallic element in the periodic table for scientific experiments and extensive industrial uses. Clearly, only this much I knew about it. And now I am not really pleased to know and share it with you as an environmental hazard and the numerous risk factors it adds to the health when we get to consume it in some way.
Cadmium holds some unique properties that are attractive to scientists, like its high electrical conductivity; its resistance to corrosion and several other characteristics it offers that make it highly in demand in industrial applications. But here we are not interested to know the advantages but the associated risks that are not, by any means, any good for us. It can even lead us to death if we are constantly being exposed to it. So the question arises in our heads as why and how do we get exposed to it and if we somehow are, then how do we make possible the elimination of its contaminated fumes out of the very air that we breathe.
What is Cadmium and where is it found?
It is found in earth’s crust. Cadmium is a by-product of a variety of industries but human activities, though not slight, are not the only culprit for its emission. Erosion of the rocks that contain Cadmium adds it to the resulting soil. Volcanic eruptions blend Cadmium naturally into our atmosphere. Moreover, the exhaust from the cars, smoke from cigarettes, fertilizers, burning of forests and the fossil-fuels are a few of the many factors that add Cadmium to the atmosphere. Close to the industrial areas and the road-sides, it is found in higher quantities in effect of the discharge. It is estimated that about 25,000 tones of Cadmium is released into the atmosphere annually.
Uses of Cadmium:
- The refining of Lead, Zinc and Copper results in the by-product called Cadmium. The refined Cadmium is used as a pigment in paints, plating on iron and steel, stabilizers for plastics, ceramics and enamels.
- Phosphorous is an important fertilizer for plants but unfortunately Cadmium is contained in phosphorous fertilizer.
- In some countries, due to the absence of regulations, Cadmium being cheap and shiny is used in the children’s jewelry.
- Used to make rechargeable batteries.
How does Cadmium get inside our body?
- Food we eat comes from the farms and the pesticides used contain Cadmium. From there it gets absorbed into the soil and taken up by the crops through the natural biological process.
- Cigarette smokers get their lungs lined by Cadmium. However, no such risk is found in people exposed to the passive smoke.
- Soft water used at homes for drinking comes through the metallic pipelines and these pipelines include some amount of Cadmium to the drinking water.
- The people who are indulged in the hobbies like painting or jewelry-making get exposed to Cadmium.
- Through the skin, Cadmium gets absorbed but the amount is negligible.
Now that we have got the brief insight of how it gets into our bodies, we need to know the health-risks or possible damages it might be able to cause to our vital organs.
Cadmium as a health-hazard:
Only a small amount of Cadmium stays inside our body when ingested with food or water. But through smoke, inhaled gas and fumes, Cadmium not only makes easy route into our body but gets stored in our kidney, bones and liver. The level of resulting damage depends upon how much we are exposed to Cadmium.
A featured article published by WHO provided a detailed overview of Cadmium, its hazardous effects and the outlines to mitigate the harmful effects. I will try to summarize these points here:
- The kidneys are the first target of Cadmium inside our bodies; it causes increased excretion of low molecular weight proteins in the urine.
- Formation of kidney stones is the outcome of high intake of Cadmium.
- The people who dwell close to the Cadmium-contaminated areas, softening of bones and Osteoporosis may occur to them.
- Industrial workers who constantly get to inhale the Cadmium oxide fumes become the victim of Acute Pneumonitis with Pulmonary Oedema, which can possibly be fatal.
- Similar long-term exposure to the fumes becomes the reason of Lung Cancer. However, there in no significant evidence to prove that Cadmium causes the kidney and Prostate Cancer.
- The women exposed to such high levels of Cadmium give birth to unhealthy babies.
You can have the detailed study of the above mentioned points at http://www.who.int/ipcs/features/cadmium.pdf
Moreover, if you think you are being exposed to high levels of Cadmium then there are tests available that you can take by consulting your physician without any delay.
Recommendations to tone down the effects of Cadmium:
- At first, globally, people should be made aware of Cadmium exposure so they can take appropriate steps to minimize the contact with Cadmium.
- Government should take strict actions for the proper recycling of Cadmium where it is the Industrial by-product and where the recycling is not possible, its use must be restricted.
- Smoking should be prohibited in public areas.
- The soil around the main streets should be disposed off to the areas distant from the population.
- The amount of Cadmium used in jewelry, coating of toys, drinking water, paints etc. should be regulated. Countries like USA, Canada and EU have already taken the measures to regulate the amount of Cadmium.
The crux of this writing is to make you aware and cautious not scared. Do not just stop eating vegetables and farm-fruits right away. I have by now explained really well that the health risks are in effect of HIGH exposure to Cadmium, not by the minimal negligible amounts.
This Article Is Written By “Ghalia Akram” Senior Author At Envirocivil.com
Orginially Published By www.envirocivil.com