Environmental Project Nr. 1471, 2013

Survey of cadmium and cadmium compounds

Part of the LOUS-review


A survey has been performed for cadmium and cadmium compounds, which are listed on the Danish EPA’s List of Undesired Substances (LOUS). Cadmium and cadmium compounds are highly toxic to human health and the environment. Cadmium is classified as a human carcinogen and is highly toxic to kidneys, the skeletal and respiratory systems. This survey gives an updated status of the current legislation, manufacture and use, waste management, effects on environment and human health and information on alternatives.

The major use of cadmium and cadmium compounds in Denmark and EU are in nickel-cadmium batteries, which are estimated to account for >80% of the total use. Apart from nickel-cadmium batteries the use of cadmium in EU is generally severely restricted. In Denmark the use of cadmium in nickel-cadmium batteries has decreased markedly during the latest years. Alternatives to cadmium are well developed and implemented for most uses.

Cadmium is assimilated in the environment due to the presence of cadmium in phosphate fertilisers and deposition from industrial activities and waste incineration. Both sources have been reduced significantly in Denmark singe the 1980’ies. Food is the dominant source of cadmium exposure of humans and accounts for approximately 90% of the intake for non-smokers. Cadmium in agricultural crops account for most of the intake. In certain European waters the dissolved cadmium concentrations exceed the threshold concentration for causing adverse effects in aquatic organisms.

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