Air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat… these are the basic necessities for us to sustain life. But what happens when these life-giving resources also contain something much more sinister?
The truth is, we live in an increasingly toxic world – and oftentimes these harmful toxins can be found lurking in the very resources we rely on. One such toxin that’s been garnering more attention lately, is a heavy metal known as cadmium.
Today we’re going to dive into exactly what cadmium is, where it’s found, and why it poses a threat to our long-term health. And most importantly, we’ll cover how you can protect yourself from this menacing metal.
So, What Is Cadmium?
Cadmium is a soft, malleable, heavy metal found naturally in the earth's crust and is typically found bonded with other elements like oxygen, chlorine, or sulfur. Cadmium is not mined, but rather, it’s obtained as a by-product of smelting other metals like copper, zinc, and lead. This recovered cadmium isn’t wasted though, it’s utilized in a wide array of products including:1
- Rechargeable batteries
- Corrosion-protection coating for iron and steel
- Coatings (electroplating)
- Solar cells
- Plastic stabilizers
- Neutron absorber in nuclear reactors
But these products aren’t the only place you’ll find cadmium lurking.
Where Is Cadmium Found?
Cadmium is naturally present in small quantities in the air, water, and soil. But thanks to modern industrial practices, cadmium levels in the environment are steadily rising. And because cadmium is capable of binding to other particles, it spread far and wide.
You can potentially be exposed to cadmium in a number of ways, including:2,3
- Occupational exposure: If you work in certain industries, you’re much more likely to come into contact with elevated levels of cadmium. The highest-risk occupations include fields like manufacturing, construction, mining, welding, painting, and landfill operations/waste collection.
- Living near high-cadmium areas: Living near certain industrial sites can also significantly increase your cadmium exposure. Areas located near landfills, recycling plants, mines, smelters, or manufacturing plants can have increased cadmium pollution.
- Smoking cigarettes: Cigarette smoke contains cadmium and smokers are estimated to receive a daily dose of cadmium that’s double that of non-smokers.
- Exposure to contaminated air: Even if you don’t live near a high-cadmium area, cadmium particles can still make their way into the air you breathe and directly into your lungs.
- Exposure to contaminated water and food: Cadmium can bind to other elements in the air, soil, and water. From there, it can sneak its way into water sources, including your drinking water. It can also be absorbed and stored by plants – which can eventually make their way onto your plate.
- Exposure to contaminated water, soil and agricultural products: Phosphate fertilizers contain cadmium as a trace impurity, and over time, cadmium can accumulate in soil with repeated application of these fertilizers. From there, it can sneak its way into water sources, including your drinking water. It can also be absorbed and stored by plants – which can eventually make their way onto your plate.
- Consuming animal products high in cadmium: Grazing animals can consume significantly elevated levels of cadmium if fed forage grown in soils that have been repeatedly exposed to phosphate fertilizers. This cadmium can accumulate in the animal's kidneys and liver and eventually be passed on to you. Some shellfish and crustaceans can also contain higher levels of naturally occurring cadmium.
While our bodies are well equipped to deal with the minuscule amounts of cadmium naturally found in our environment, amplified exposure to this element can have serious consequences for your health.
Cadmium Poisoning Symptoms
Coming into contact with a large concentrated dose of cadmium can result in acute poisoning symptoms – chills, fever, muscle pain. If ingested, cadmium poisoning can severely irritate the stomach, causing vomiting and diarrhea. And if inhaled, cadmium can cause permanent damage to your lungs and can even lead to death.
Acute cadmium poisoning is rare though, and typically only occurs in high-risk industries. The more common threat when it comes to cadmium is long-term exposure.
Cadmium Health Effects
Over time cadmium can accumulate in your body, slowly deteriorating your cells’ ability to function properly. Cadmium is considered a highly toxic element and exposure has been linked to conditions like:4,5,6
The kidneys are where cadmium predominantly accumulates and begins exerting its toxic effects. Cadmium exposure can slowly chip away at your kidneys’ ability to function by diminishing the glomerular filtration rate – or how well your kidneys filter your blood. This can cause proteinuria (increased protein excreted in your urine), increase the frequency of kidney stone formation, and even lead to nephrotoxicity – or the destruction of your kidney cells.
Reproductive and Developmental Damage:
Cadmium has the potential to cause reproductive and developmental harm. Cadmium has been found to:
- Decrease sperm count, increase immature sperm forms, and negatively affect sperm quality
- Decrease testosterone levels, diminish libido, and negatively impact fertility
- Increase risk of ovarian hemorrhage and necrosis
- Increase risk of low birth weights and spontaneous abortions
Cadmium exposure can also impact fetal development during pregnancy – interfering with fetal metabolism, neurological development, and skeletal formation.
Cadmium can cause bone demineralization and inhibit the synthesis of other bone-forming compounds like c-proteinases and collagen. This can result in skeletal issues like osteoporosis, osteomalacia, skeletal deformities, and bone pain.
In extreme cases, cadmium can cause a condition known as Itai-Itai – a massive disruption of bone mineralization that results in significant pain and skeletal distortion.
Cadmium may inhibit vascular relaxation, which can result in hypertension (high blood pressure). It also stimulates the production of cytokines and other inflammatory molecules that trigger endothelial damage – resulting in the formation of plaque in blood vessels. This plaque formation increases the risk of peripheral arterial disease and heart problems.
As you can see, this calamitous compound can have some nasty side effects, but can cadmium cause cancer? The answer is yes – cadmium is a known human carcinogen.
Cadmium exposure has been identified as a carcinogen for the following cancers:
With such serious and widespread health effects, you’re probably curious exactly how cadmium can cause so much damage. Let’s take a little deeper look at exactly how cadmium exerts its toxic effects on the human body.
How Cadmium Exerts Its Toxic Effects
Once cadmium makes its way into your body, it goes straight to work wreaking havoc on a cellular level. You see, cadmium disrupts a number of crucial cellular processes, including:7
- Hindering cell proliferation and differentiation while promoting cellular apoptosis – or cellular death
- Interfering with DNA repair while promoting DNA damage
- Generating damaging free radicals that cause oxidative stress
- Depleting and blocking cellular antioxidants
- Enhancing the growth of abnormal and cancerous cells
Cadmium toxicity can be insidious – this toxic element slowly chips away at your health on a microscopic level. With such sneaky and serious implications, you’re probably wondering what you can do to protect yourself from cadmium.
Can You Remove Cadmium From the Body?
Wondering how to remove cadmium from your body? Detoxing from cadmium requires an all-encompassing approach. An approach that helps you reduce the amount of cadmium and other toxins coming in, while simultaneously boosting your body’s natural detoxification abilities. Here’s what I recommend:
- Invest in quality water: Because cadmium and other toxins are readily found floating around in water sources, investing in a high-quality water filtration system is one of the best ways to minimize the amount of toxins you’re ingesting on a daily basis. Look for water purification systems that have lab test results proving they remove dangerous contaminants like cadmium. Two of the best filtration systems on the market that I trust are Boroux Water Filters and Clearly Filtered Water Filters.
- Eat a healthy, well-rounded diet: Eating a diet that focuses on whole foods – like fresh produce, high-quality proteins, and healthy fats – will help ensure you’re getting all of your essential vitamins and minerals which are crucial for detoxing. I always recommend opting for organic when possible to minimize intake of cadmium and other toxins found in fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
- Incorporate supplements: It can also be helpful to add in some extra supplements to help fill in any nutritional gaps. Supplements like glutathione, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D are particularly helpful in supporting your immune system in detoxing.
- Show your gut some love: Your gut is crucial when it comes to keeping potentially harmful toxins from sneaking their way into the rest of your body. You see, your digestive tract is designed to be sealed up tight – only allowing certain molecules into your bloodstream. So it’s essential to keep your gut healthy and strong. Some of the best ways to show your gut some love is to incorporate gut-healing supplements like probiotics, Gut Immune, and collagen.
- Be mindful of your overall toxic burden: Our never-ending exposure to things like EMFs, indoor air pollution, and other harmful compounds can overload our bodies with toxins. Taking steps to reduce your overall toxic burden will help your body be better equipped to handle the toxins we simply can't avoid. Click here to learn more about how you can reduce your toxic burden.
- Boost your natural detoxification abilities: Your body has natural detoxification pathways to help eliminate harmful compounds from your body. Give your body the tools it needs to fully support and enhance these natural detoxing processes by integrating tools like PEMF therapy, infrared saunas, and detox binders.
While these steps may be simple, they’re powerfully effective and can go a long way in protecting you from the harmful effects of cadmium and other toxins.
So, How Concerned Should I Be When It Comes to Cadmium?
The truth is we live in an increasingly toxic world. And the risks that come with prolonged and/or elevated exposure to cadmium and other harmful toxins are very real. And while there may not be much we can necessarily do to avoid the fact that our world is becoming more toxic, the good news is, you are not at the mercy of your environment.
When it comes to your health and well-being, you are in the driver’s seat. You have control over your day-to-day choices that have a monumental impact on your health. That’s why I’m dedicated to arming you with the tools you need to defend and preserve your health for years to come.
So if you enjoyed this article and are looking for more ways to prioritize your health, head over and check out my blog – it’s chock-full of resources just like this. And if you’re ready to take it to the next level, you can sign up for my newsletter by entering your name and email address in the form below.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to learn about the ways exposure to cadmium can be harmful? What steps are you taking to protect yourself and your loved ones from cadmium and other toxins in your day-to-day lives? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
- Cadmium – Overview | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov)
- Cadmium – Exposure and Controls | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov)
- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CADMIUM, HOW IT AFFECTS YOU AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE YOUR RISK (dhhs.tas.gov.au)
- Cadmium toxicity and treatment: An update (nih.gov)
- The toxicity of cadmium and resulting hazards for human health | Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)
- cadmium-compounds.pdf (epa.gov)
- Cadmium toxicity and treatment: An update (nih.gov)
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.