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Cadmium PDF Print E-mail
It is also used in fire-proofing, in PVC plastic (as a stabiliser), in power transmission lines, as a nematocide (worm killer) and fungicide, and in electroplating. It is always present as an impurity in zinc used to make galvanised iron. Calculators and domestic appliances use dry cells such as nickel-cadmium batteries. The element is always present in soil in trace concentrations which vary from region to region. It is often present as an impurity in superphosphate and some other fertilisers and is then taken up by plants.

Health effects
Cadmium is one of the most toxic metals. The greatest danger comes from inhaling or ingesting fumes or dust: 500 mg can be a fatal dose. About 10 per cent of ingested and 25 to 50 per cent of inhaled cadmium are retained in the body, mostly in the kidneys and liver.

Symptoms of cadmium poisoning are loss of appetite, weakness, nausea, vomiting, inflamed chest and lungs, coughs and kidney stones and lesions. Cadmium has been classed as a carcinogen by IARC and may be linked with hypertension.

People in the metal industry are most at risk. In the home there is a risk from fumes during soldering or welding, and also from children gnawing some red or yellow-painted toys or playing with discarded batteries (e.g. calculator batteries). Heavy smokers are at risk since tobacco plants readily take up cadmium from the soil and this is vaporised during smoking. For most non-smokers the major intake comes from food. Potatoes, chocolate, peanuts, shellfish, crustaceans and sheep's kidneys can all contain significant amounts. People with damaged kidneys should restrict their intake of such foods.

Environmental effects
Cadmium is released into the environment by the burning of coal and waste. It also comes from cement factories, metal smelters and foundries and is contained in metal-coating formulations and the dust resulting from paint removal. Phosphate and some other fertilisers contain traces of cadmium which accumulate in the soil and are taken up by plants and animals. In sheep and cattle it accumulates in the kidneys.

Choose unpainted wooden toys. Avoid foods which are liable to contain high concentrations of cadmium (see above).

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