Fact Sheet: Cadmium


Brief Overview:
Contaminant: Cadmium
Category: Inorganic
Source: Batteries, paints
Effect: Kidney effects
Treatment: Coagulation/Filtration, Ion Exchange, RO

Cadmium is a metal found in natural deposits as ores containing other elements. The greatest use of cadmium is primarily for metal plating and coating operations, including transportation equipment, machinery and baking enamels, photography, television phosphors. It is also used in nickel-cadmium and solar batteries and in pigments.

2.9 million lbs. of cadmium were produced in the US in 1986, and nearly twice that amount was imported in the same year. Cadmium occurs naturally in zinc, lead, copper and other ores which can serve as sources to ground and surface waters, especially when in contact with soft, acidic waters. Major industrial releases of cadmium are due to waste streams and leaching of landfills, and from a variety of operations that involve cadmium or zinc. In particular, cadmium can be released to drinking water from the corrosion of some galvanized plumbing and water main pipe materials.

From 1987 to 1993, according to EPAs Toxic Chemical Release Inventory, cadmium releases were primarily from zinc, lead and copper smelting and refining industries, with the largest releases occurring in Arizona and Utah.

What happens to Cadmium when it is released to the environment? Some cadmium compounds are able to leach through soils to ground water. When cadmium compounds do bind to the sediments of rivers, they can be more easily bioaccumulated or re-dissolved when sediments are disturbed, such as during flooding. Its tendency to accumulate in aquatic life is great in some species, low in others.

Short-term: EPA has found cadmium to potentially cause the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for relatively short periods of time: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, salivation, sensory disturbances, liver injury, convulsions, shock and renal failure.

Long-term: Cadmium has the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: kidney, liver, bone and blood damage.



Coagulation/Filtration, Ion Exchange, Lime Softening, Reverse Osmosis