how is cadmium, as a heavy metal, dangerous for our health?

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pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Cadmium is an element that the human body does not require for health. Because we don't need it and it is not common in an all-natural diet, the body has no mechanism for controlling the level of cadmium or for clearing it from the tissues. One consequence of this is bioaccumulation in both our bodies and those of the animals we eat.

Cadmium has a number of industrial uses. It is used as a pigment in paints, a plastic stabilizer, an anti-corrosion coating on other metals, and in Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) batteries.It is also found in varying amounts in natural soils.

We are exposed to cadmium by eating meat that has accumulated cadmium in it, by smoking tobacco, and by sanding, grinding, or heating materials that cadmium has been incorporated into or coated onto. Cadmium that is inhaled seems to have a more immediate toxic effect, causing respiratory distress and pulmonary edema, or fluid buildup inside the lungs, a dangerous condition which can be fatal. Cadmium that is swallowed can lead to a variety of problems including osteopenia, which is a painful weakening of the bones, kidney failure, and cancer.

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