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Heavy Metals - Cadmium

Cadmium is a heavy metal commonly used in industry, as it is a component of rechargeable batteries, used in metal alloy fabrication and in metal plating. It is considered one of the most toxic substances in the environment.

Where Do They Come From?

The most common source of cadmium exposure is from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal or oil.  Other sources include:

Food and Water

  • Cadmium can be found in very high levels in seafood caught in contaminated waters.

  • Food, such as soy and tofu, may be contaminated with cadmium.


Lifestyle and Household

  • Cigarettes contain cadmium.

  • Batteries contain cadmium.



  • The combustion of waste and the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are the primary sources of cadmium. 

  • The processing of sewage waste produces cadmium.

  • Cadmium is often found in the environment with zinc.  Historically zinc mining has been a major source of water contamination with cadmium.

  • Cadmium is used in several industrial processes including alloy production, metal plating and as a component of rechargeable batteries.

  • Jewelry working with silver without appropriate personal protection can pose a significant cadmium exposure risk.

  • Cadmium is used to dye medical waste bags red. When these bags are incinerated they release cadmium into the environment.



  • Cadmium can be released into the environment from fertilizer and contaminated water and food sources.

How They Affect You

Cadmium primarily enters the body through ingestion or inhalation and affects many organs including the lungs, kidneys, immune system and bones.

Common symptoms of cadmium toxicity include nausea, excessive salivation, abdominal pain, diarrhea, increased bone fractures, low back pain and chest pain.


Cardiovascular Disease: It has severe effects on the cardiovascular system, contributing to hypertension and increasing the risk for myocardial infarctions by 80%.  A 50% increase in blood cadmium was associated with a 35% increase in stroke prevalence and a 48% increase in heart failure prevalence.   


Bone Health: Cadmium increases risk for osteoporosis.  The research shows that 73% of US women over the age of 50 had cadmium levels >0.50 ug/g, a level associated with increased risk for osteoporosis.  Another way cadmium contributes to osteoporosis is by depleting key minerals including zinc, copper and calcium which is crucial for bone health.  


DNA and Gene Expression: Other deleterious effects of cadmium include decreasing DNA repair systems, causing mitochondrial damage and negatively affecting gene expression.  

Other Conditions:  Other conditions associated with chronic cadmium exposure include chronic kidney disease, lung cancer and male infertility.

How To Protect Yourself

The following are ways to limit your exposure to cadmium:

  • Avoid smoking .

  • If working in a factory or plant, be mindful of possible sources of cadmium and limit exposure.

  • Avoid foods that are potentially contaminated (if soil is contaminated).

  • If living in a polluted city, be sure to use an air filter in your home.

3 Essentials

  1. Avoid smoking

  2. Avoid seafood from contaminated waters

  3. XXX

Additional Key Recommendations

  1. If working on a factory or plant be mindful of possible sources of cadmium and limit exposure

  2. Avoid foods that are potentially contaminated (if soil is contaminated) 

  3. If living in a polluted city be sure to use an air filter in your home


  1. SoderlandP, et a. Chronic kidney disease associated with environmental toxins and exposures. Adv ChronKid Dis2010;17:254-264

  2. Adams SV, et al. Sources of cadmium exposure among healthy premenopausal women. SciTotal Environ. 2011 Apr1;409(9):1632-7.

  3. Everett CJ, et al. Association of urinary cadmium and myocardial infarction. Environ Res. 2008 Feb;106(2):284-6.

  4. Biochimie, 2006, Nov;88(11):1549-59.  

  5. Flora Sj, Mittal M, Mehta A.  Heavy metal induced oxidative stress and its possible reversal by chelation therapy.  Indian J Med Res. 2008 Oct;128(4):501-23.  

  6. Peters JL, et al. Cadmium exposure in association with history of stroke and heart failure. Environ Res. 2010 Feb;110(2):199-206.

  7. Gallagher CM, et al. Urinary cadmium and osteoporosis in U.S. Women >or= 50 years of age: NHANES 1988-1994 and 1999-2004. Environ Health Perspect. 2008


Work with a naturopathic doctor / naturopath to help you assess for environmental pollutants and to understand how they may be affecting your health. The information on this website is a guide for ways to protect you and your family from environmental pollutants.  It is not meant to replace advice from a healthcare professional.

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