HWTR Dangerous Materials

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Cadmium as Dangerous Waste

Cadmium is a useful, yet quite toxic metal. It is especially dangerous to the lungs and kidneys. The general population can be exposed to cadmium from breathing cigarette smoke or eating cadmium-contaminated foods. Most exposure to cadmium, however, happens in the workplace where cadmium products are made or where ore is processed or smelted.

Reducing Cadmium in the Workplace

Metal refinery and smelter workers can be exposed, because cadmium readily volatilizes and becomes breathable so readily under heat and pressure. Electroplaters, welders, and those involved in the manufacture of paint, glazes, batteries, electronics, and plastics may be at risk for exposure. Cadmium is also present in the manufacture of some types of batteries.

Cadmium is used extensively in electroplating. Cadmium metal is used primarily as an anticorrosive, electroplated onto steel.

Metal Finishing Topic Hub™ at the Pollution Prevention Resource Center offers ideas, assistance, and links for cadmium reduction.

Advanced Surface Engineering Technologies for a Sustainable Defense–ASETSDefense is a Department of Defense (DoD) initiative to facilitate the implementation of new, environmentally friendly technologies for surface engineering (coatings and surface treatments).

Cadmium is also found in some industrial paints and may present a hazard when sprayed.

Paint & Coating Manufacturing Topic Hub™ at the Pollution Prevention Resource Center offers ideas, assistance and links for cadmium reduction.

Death from acute exposure has been reported among welders who unsuspectingly welded on cadmium-containing alloys or worked with silver solders.

Topic Hub™ for Semiconductor Manufacturing at the Pollution Prevention Resource Center offers ideas, assistance and links for cadmium reduction.

Cadmium Toxicity and Health Effects

Cadmium damages the kidneys, lungs, and bones. The primary adverse health effects are lung cancer and kidney damage. Others show reduced pulmonary function and chronic lung disease, indicative of emphysema. Acute exposure can be fatal.

Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry ToxFAQs for Cadmium has the latest information on the toxicity of cadmium from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Cadmium Regulations

Cadmium is one of six soon-to-be-banned substances in the European Union (EU). Phase-outs in the EU affect trade for Washington businesses that may use cadmium in their product. The Department of Ecology is working to help Washington businesses remain competitive in the international marketplace.

Restriction of Hazardous Substance (UK page)


European List of Notified Chemical Substances (ELINCS)

European Chemicals Agency

Related information

Dangerous Materials A - Z


Cadmium is one of three toxic metals addressed in the Toxic Metals Prevention Project.


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