What is Cadmium Poisoning?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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Cadmium is a potentially toxic type of metal and is used in a variety of products that are readily available to the general public. Some sources of cadmium may include food, cigarettes, and jewelry. Exposure to cadmium, especially long-term or constant exposure, could lead to a serious medical condition known as cadmium poisoning. Some possible symptoms of cadmium poisoning may include flu-like symptoms, breathing difficulties, and kidney failure. There are no medical treatments available for cadmium poisoning, so medical care is limited to treating individual symptoms and removing the patient from the cadmium source.

Many food and water sources contain some levels of cadmium. Some foods that may contain high levels of cadmium include shellfish and organ meats such as liver. Possible symptoms of cadmium poisoning from these sources include abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Some patients may experience muscle cramps, dizziness, or seizures. In some cases, the affected person may go into shock or completely lose consciousness.

Inhalation of cadmium fumes is another potential cause of cadmium poisoning and can cause significant lung damage. Some of these symptoms may include muscle weakness, chest pain, or excessive sweating. Some patients may complain of a dry mouth or throat and develop a cough. Headaches and breathing problems are also common. Supplemental oxygen may be needed in order to improve breathing and prevent damage to other organs.


Constant exposure to cadmium may lead to a particularly troublesome form of cadmium poisoning. It takes only a few minutes of constant exposure to lead to potentially life-threatening complications. There can be trouble breathing and a partial or complete loss of the sense of smell. Severe organ damage may occur, especially damage to the lungs, liver, and kidneys. Dramatic weight loss and the development of bone fractures may also occur as a result of cadmium poisoning.

Cadmium poisoning often occurs due to a failure to follow proper safety guidelines when when using this toxic metal. Containers that have been plated with cadmium should never be used to store food products. Care should be taken when exposed to coal fumes or the fumes of other fossil fuels because cadmium could be present. If cadmium exposure is suspected, the affected person should visit a doctor right away so that proper testing can be done to confirm whether poisoning has occurred. Doctors may induce vomiting or begin oxygen therapy in an effort to clear the body of as much cadmium as possible.


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