In the past year, cadmium has showed up as a medical topic due to a flurry of high-profile product recalls. Everything from jewelry, toys, and paints has been found to contain cadmium. In the spring of 2010, companies targeting a preteen market recalled necklaces, earrings and bracelets after discovering the products contained substantial levels of cadmium. Then, in June, McDonald’s recalled 12 million “Shrek” drinking glasses.
Many consumers are now wondering: what is cadmium and why is it showing up in so many products? Does cadmium pose a threat to you and your family? Scientific evidence strongly shows that cadmium is a major human toxicant, meaning that it’s toxic to our bodies.
Cadmium is used in metal alloys to increase strength and wear resistance, or to lower the melting point. Cadmium pigments are used to create bright yellow, orange, red, and maroon dyes, paints, plastics, and ceramics. The metal is also used to produce nickel-cadmium batteries. It can be found in electrical conductors, PVC products, tires, automobile radiators, electronic components, and heating elements. Another big source of exposure to cadmium comes in the form of the burning of fossil fuels.
When it comes to food, more than 80% of dietary cadmium intake has been estimated to come from cereals (especially rice and wheat), vegetables (especially leafy greens), and root vegetables (especially potatoes and carrots).
If you have low iron stores, you are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of cadmium. People with hypertension also may be at increased risk.
A research team did an extensive review of cross-sectional data on blood cadmium and self-reported diagnoses of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension. In all, data from1,908 adults, aged 20 years and older, who participated in the 2005 Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES) were analyzed for the study. After adjusting for various factors, the researchers found that an increase in blood cadmium was associated with an increased risk for heart disease. They concluded that cadmium in the blood may be associated with an increased risk for ischemic heart disease and hypertension in the general adult population.
You can reduce the effects of cadmium exposure by making sure you have adequate intake of several essential minerals, including iron, calcium and zinc. These minerals could help reduce the amount of ingested cadmium that is absorbed.
If you smoke, stopping will significantly reduce your exposure to cadmium.
To combat cadmium-bearing soil carried indoors, experts recommend replacing carpets with floor coverings that can be cleaned with water or by using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to prevent tiny cadmium-loaded particles from being re-emitted into the air.
Ultimately, however, public education can help all of us avoid cadmium exposure. By lobbying industry and government, options to purchase cadmium-free items and foods can become the norm.