Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Cadmium is one of the few elements that has no constructive purpose in the human body. This element and solutions of its compounds are extremely toxic even in low concentrations, and will bioaccumulate in organisms and ecosystems.
Sources of exposure
In the 1950s and 1960s industrial exposure to Cadmium was high. But as the toxic effects of Cadmium became apparent, industrial limits on cadmium exposure have been reduced in most industrialized nations and many policy makers agree on the need to reduce exposure further. While working with cadmium it is important to do so under a fume hood to protect against dangerous fumes. Silver solder, for example, which contains cadmium, should be handled with care. Serious toxicity problems have resulted from long-term exposure to cadmium plating baths.
Buildup of cadmium levels in the water, air, and soil has been occurring particularly in industrial areas. Environmental exposure to cadmium has been particularly problematic in Japan where many people have consumed rice that was grown in cadmium contaminated irrigation water.
Food is another source cadmium. Plants may only contain small or moderate amounts in non-industrial areas, but high levels may be found in the liver and kidneys of adult animals.
Cigarettes are also a significant source of cadmium exposure. Although there is generally less cadmium in tabacco than in food, the lungs absorb cadmium more efficiently than the gut.
Inhaling cadmium laden dust quickly leads to respiratory tract and kidney problems which can be fatal (often from renal failure). Ingestion of any significant amount of cadmium causes immediate poisoning and damage to the liver and the kidneys. Compounds containing cadmium are also carcinogenic. Cadmium poisoning is the cause of the itai-itai disease, which literally means "pain pain" in Japanese. In addition to kidney damage, patients suffered from osteoporosis and osteomalacia.
Acute exposure to cadmium fumes may cause flu like symptoms including chills, fever, and muscle ache. Symptoms may resolve after a week if there is no respiratory damage. More severe exposures can cause tracheo-bronchitis, pneumonitis, and pulmonary edema. Symptoms of inflamation may start hours after the exposure and include cough, dryness and irritation of the nose and throat, headache, dizziness, weakness, fever, chills, and chest pain.
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