Due to its low permissible exposure limit (PEL), overexposures may occur even in situations where trace quantities of cadmium are found in the parent ore or smelter dust. Cadmium is used extensively in electroplating, although the nature of the operation does not generally lead to overexposures. Several deaths from acute exposure have occurred among welders who have unsuspectingly welded on cadmium-containing alloys or worked with silver solders. Cadmium is also found in some industrial paints and may represent a hazard when sprayed. Operations involving removal of cadmium paints by scraping or blasting may similarly pose a significant hazard. Cadmium is also present in the manufacture of some types of batteries. Cadmium emits a characteristic brown fume (CdO) upon heating, which is relatively non-irritating, and thus does not alarm the exposed individual.
Breathing high levels of cadmium severely damages the lungs and can cause death. Eating food or drinking water with very high levels severely irritates the stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhea. Long-term exposure to lower levels of cadmium in air, food, or water leads to a buildup of cadmium in the kidneys and possible kidney disease. Other long-term effects are lung damage and fragile bones.
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