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What is Cadmium?

Cadmium is a silver-white metal that is found in the earth’s crust. It is extracted during the production of metals such as copper, lead, and zinc.

Cadmium is found in some foods and is emitted by using fossil fuels such as coal and oil, smoking cigarettes, and burning waste. It is used in batteries, craft glazes, and metal coatings.

See also: Factories Food and Cooking Homes Air Pollution

Where is Cadmium found?

  • Consumer products - cigarettes, batteries, craft glazes, jewelry, and metal coatings
  • Food - some shellfish, kidney meats, grain cereals, and vegetables
  • Air - cigarette smoke, second-hand smoke, and emissions from fossil fuels

How can I be exposed to Cadmium?

Cadmium commonly enter(s) the body through:


Ingestion (swallowing)

  • Swallowing food that contains cadmium.

Inhalation (breathing)

  • Smoking cigarettes or breathing cigarette smoke, second-hand smoke, or emissions from fossil fuels and craft processes that use cadmium.

What happens when I am exposed to Cadmium?

Exposure from breathing high cadmium levels can cause:

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Throat and nose irritation

Eating food or drinking water with very high cadmium levels may:

  • Irritate the stomach
  • Cause vomiting and diarrhea


  • Long-term exposure to cadmium can cause:
  • Cancer
  • Lung damage
  • Kidney disease
  • Convulsions

Exposure to lower cadmium levels for a long time can cause:

  • Fragile bones that break easily

Who is at risk for exposure to Cadmium?

  • Consumers
    • Some consumer products, foods, and craft processes contain cadmium.
  • Cigarette smokers
    • Cigarette smoke and second-hand smoke contain cadmium.

Reduce your risk

If you think your health has been affected by exposure to cadmium, contact your health care professional. 

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals. For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

  • Do you, or does anyone in your household, smoke tobacco products?
  • Do you use products such as nickel-cadmium batteries, craft glazes, or coatings with cadmium?
  • If you smoke, quit. Avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Use proper ventilation when you use products that may contain cadmium.
  • Properly dispose of cadmium-containing products. Many of these items can be recycled.
  • Avoid cadmium-contaminated food. Check and obey local fishing advisories before eating fish or shellfish from local waterways.
  • Do not allow children to play with batteries. Children may swallow small nickel-cadmium batteries, or batteries could leak.

National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases

  • Cadmium and Compounds. Haz-Map
    Information about cadmium and cadmium compounds from an occupational health database designed for health and safety professionals and consumers seeking information about the adverse effects of workplace exposures to chemical and biological agents.

Additional Resources

  • Cadmium. ToxFAQs
    Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
    Factsheet with answers to the most frequently asked questions about cadmium exposure and its effect on human health, developed by a federal public health agency that protects communities from harmful health effects related to exposure to natural and man-made hazardous substances.
  • Cadmium
    New Jersey Department of Health
    Factsheet about the hazards associated with cadmium exposure, and information on how to protect yourself.
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