Cadmium

Last Updated:

On This Page:

In 2011 to 2012, the blood (lipid-adjusted) concentration of cadmium among persons aged 1 year and older was 1.5 µg/L.

Summary graph for Cadmium, Click to see detailed view of graph

See Graph Details

Introduction

Cadmium is an element found in low concentrations in the earth’s crust. It is usually found as a mineral combined with other elements such as oxygen (cadmium oxide), chlorine (cadmium chloride), or sulfur (cadmium sulfate, cadmium sulfide).

All soils and rocks, including coal and mineral fertilizers, contain some cadmium. Most cadmium used in the United States is extracted during the production of other metals like zinc, lead, and copper. Cadmium has many uses, including in the production of batteries, pigments, metal coatings, and plastics.

Cadmium and its compounds are highly toxic and exposure is known to cause cancer. It is primarily associated with human lung, prostate, and kidney cancers, and recently pancreatic cancer. It has also been associated with cancers of the breast and urinary bladder.

The general population may be exposed to small amounts of cadmium daily through food, tobacco smoke (as active or secondhand smoke), drinking water, and air. Cadmium is introduced to the food chain through agricultural soils, which may naturally contain cadmium, or from anthropogenic (human) sources, from cadmium-based pigments, and stabilizers used in certain plastics. While dietary sources can be sporadic, intake from tobacco occurs with each cigarette smoked and can proceed for decades resulting in accumulation of metals like cadmium in the body. Cadmium levels are expected to be low in drinking water and ambient air except in the vicinity of cadmium-emitting industries or incinerators.

Occupational exposure to cadmium primarily occurs in operations involving heating cadmium-containing products. Occupations with the highest potential for exposure include alloy production, battery production, pigment production and use, plastics production, and smelting and refining. Although levels vary widely among the different industries, occupational exposures generally have decreased since the 1970s.

Examination of cadmium is new to the Cancer Trends Progress Report this year.

Measure

We present exposure data on the 95th percentile of the population, representing people with the greatest exposure. The 95th percentile level means that 95% of the population has concentrations below that level. Public health officials use such reference values to determine whether groups of people are experiencing an exposure that is unusual compared with an exposure experienced by the rest of the population. [Citation]

To calculate whether the differences between 95th percentiles for two different time points is statistically significant, we used a different statistical methodology than that used by the National Center for Environmental Health, who publishes the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals from where our data are derived. Our estimates may differ slightly from those in the original report due to differences in statistical procedures used. [Methodology]

Healthy People 2020 Target

Level of cadmium in blood samples for 95 percent of the population aged 1 year and older to below 1.12 µg/L.

Healthy People 2020 is a set of goals set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Data Source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Trends and Most Recent EstimatesHelp with navigating the graphs and data tables

By Sex

95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 1 year and older by sex, 1999-2012
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2011 to 2012)
Microgram/liter (µg/L) 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for 95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 1 year and older by sex, 1999-2012 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 1.50 (1.39 - 1.63)
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 1.48 (1.30 - 1.65)
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 1.53 (1.32 - 1.70)

By Race/Ethnicity

95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 1 year and older by race/ethnicity, 1999-2012
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2011 to 2012)
Microgram/liter (µg/L) 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for 95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 1 year and older by race/ethnicity, 1999-2012 All RacesClick to see the detailed trend graph for All Races 1.50 (1.39 - 1.63)
Non-Hispanic WhiteClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic White 1.65 (1.44 - 1.80)
Non-Hispanic BlackClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic Black 1.50 (1.39 - 1.60)
HispanicClick to see the detailed trend graph for Hispanic 0.90 (0.79 - 0.99)

By Age

95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 1 year and older by age, 1999-2012
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2011 to 2012)
Microgram/liter (µg/L) 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for 95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 1 year and older by age, 1999-2012 Ages 1-5Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 1-5 0.21 (0.20 - 0.22)
Ages 6-11Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 6-11 0.24 (0.23 - 0.25)
Ages 12-19Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 12-19 0.64 (0.47 - 0.84)
Ages 20+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 20+ 1.70 (1.50 - 1.62)

By Poverty Income Level

95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 1 year and older by poverty income level, 1999-2012
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2011 to 2012)
Microgram/liter (µg/L) 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for 95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 1 year and older by poverty income level, 1999-2012 < 200% of the federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for < 200% of the federal poverty level 1.70 (1.51 - 1.80)
>= 200% of the federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for >= 200% of the federal poverty level 1.24 (1.14 - 1.42)

By Education Level

95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 20 years and older by highest level of education obtained, 1999-2012
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2011 to 2012)
Microgram/liter (µg/L) 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for 95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 20 years and older by highest level of education obtained, 1999-2012 Less than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Less than High School 1.91 (1.70 - 2.20)
High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for High School 1.80 (1.65 - 2.05)
Greater than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Greater than High School 1.45 (1.28 - 1.63)

By Smoking Status

95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 20 years and older by smoking status, 1999-2012
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2011 to 2012)
Microgram/liter (µg/L) 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for 95th percentile for blood concentrations (µg/L) of cadmium among persons aged 20 years and older by smoking status, 1999-2012 Non-SmokerClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Smoker 0.77 (0.73 - 0.81)
SmokerClick to see the detailed trend graph for Smoker 3.23 (2.90 - 3.67)

Additional Information on Cadmium

For the public

For health professionals

Scientific reports

Year Range

1999-2012

Recent Summary Trend Year Range

2007-2012

Summary Tables

Chemical Exposures

Recent Summary Trend

Non-Significant Change

Desired Direction

Falling