What Is Cadmium?

Cadmium is a toxic metal that exists deep within the Earth. Along with that, it is also an element found on the Periodic Table. Rarely found in its concentrated form, when it is most toxic, cadmium can be found in natural deposits of other metals, like zinc.

The soft, bluish-white metal was once used heavily for its desirable properties. Some of these include its vibrant pigment, malleability, and ability to conduct electricity. First discovered hundreds of years ago, cadmium was initially used to make red, yellow, and orange pigments for plastic, ceramic, and enamel products, and is now abundant in the manufacture of nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd), which makes rechargeable batteries and protective coatings for iron and steel.

Cadmium can also be found in alloys, solar cells, plastic stabilizers, and nuclear reactors. Despite its use in a range of industries, cadmium is carcinogenic in high doses and can cause cancer and other illness in people who’ve been exposed.

Can It Cause Mesothelioma?

Prolonged inhalation of cadmium vapors has been known to cause lung cancer, but asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, cancer that affects the lining of the lungs (pleura), abdomen (peritoneum), or heart (pericardium). Asbestos is also a naturally occurring material, like cadmium, and was once used heavily in the manufacture of building structures and materials because of its resistance to elements like fire and electricity.

While the exposure to cadmium can’t cause mesothelioma, it can increase someone’s risk to develop it and other forms of cancer. This risk is increased further if an individual works in an occupation where they are exposed to asbestos, carcinogens, and other harmful factors like radiation. Additionally, the liability falls in the hands of the building owner or manager to effectively remove the toxin before allowing employees or residents to occupy the space. If a worker is negligently exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with mesothelioma or other related-illness, they may be able to seek legal compensation from the companies responsible for asbestos exposure.

Where Is It Found?

Being a small metal in rock and soil that’s deep in the earth’s crust, cadmium isn’t found easily. When materials like zinc, copper, lead, and other phosphate minerals and fossil fuels are mined, smelted, recycled, refined, or incinerated, these activities release unnatural levels of cadmium to nearby areas.

Over 80 percent of commercial use can be attributed to the manufacturing of batteries, with approximately 20,000 tons of cadmium being produced every year since 1990 to fill market demand. Additionally, when there’s movement in the earth’s crust and mantle, volcanic activity, or the weathering of rocks, it can also release the toxic material into the environment.

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Who’s at Risk for Cadmium Exposure?

Cadmium is most dangerous when released in a way that it can be inhaled or ingested. Employees with the highest risk for this type of exposure are those in the mining, construction, and manufacturing industries. Involved activities include fossil fuel combustion, metal production, and the manufacturing of batteries, plastics, coatings, and solar panels.

High-risk jobs can be anything involving welding, electroplating, metal machining, and painting. Some fields outside of high-risk industries that also carry a chance for cadmium exposure are waste management employees. This includes compost workers, trash collectors, landfill managers, municipal waste incinerators, or those who recycle electronics and plastics.

Negative Health Effects

Harmful exposure can lead to a number of adverse health effects. When cadmium enters the body it builds up in the liver, kidneys, and bones. If high levels of the material are inhaled over a short period, acute exposure occurs. This can cause flu-like symptoms like fever, muscle pain, and lung damage. Chronic exposure involves being around low levels over a longer period and can cause kidney, bone, or lung disease. Cadmium is classified as a group 1 carcinogenic substance to humans and is most liable to cause cancer when inhaled versus ingested over long periods.

Cancers caused by cadmium include lung, prostate, kidney, and sometimes pancreatic cancer. It’s also been associated with cancer in the breast and urinary tract.

Negative Environmental Effects

As a non-essential heavy metal, cadmium has no use in biological systems. When it’s inhaled or ingested it can accumulate to dangerous levels for vertebrates, aquatic invertebrates, and algae and can cause kidney damage. Aquatic, freshwater and marine life are the most affected by high levels of cadmium in the environment that have been released from anthropogenic (human) emissions.

Next Steps

Have you been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma and think it’s because you were negligently exposed to cadmium, asbestos, or something else? You have a right to a healthy work environment and should be informed of any risks or dangers beforehand. Fill out our free case evaluation to see what legal options you may have.

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