International Programme on Chemical Safety


Cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal and the respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen. It is generally present in the environment at low levels. However, human activity has greatly increased those levels.

Cadmium can travel long distances from the source of emission by atmospheric transfer. It is readily accumulated in many organisms, notably molluscs and crustaceans. Lower concentrations are found in vegetables, cereals and starchy roots. Human exposure occurs mainly from consumption of contaminated food, active and passive inhalation of tobacco smoke, and inhalation by workers in the non-ferrous metal industry.

Interventions to reduce global environmental cadmium releases and occupational and environmental exposure include:

  • increased recycling of cadmium;
  • minimizing emissions and discharges from activities such as mining and waste management;
  • promoting safe working conditions for workers manipulating cadmium containing products; and
  • stopping smoking.

Short information documents for decision makers

Norms and guidance values