Cadmium is a naturally occurring metallic element, one of the components in the earth’s crust, and present everywhere in our environment. It was first discovered in Germany in 1817. The name is derived from the Latin cadmia and the Greek kadmeia.
Industrial applications for cadmium were first developed in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Cadmium-sulfide based pigments were used as early as 1850 and appeared prominently in the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. Thomas A. Edison invented the first industrial nickel-cadmium batteries in the early part of the 20th century. The early significant industrial use of cadmium, however, was in cadmium coatings for the corrosion protection of steel.
Releases of cadmium to the environment from the manufacture of cadmium products are well controlled and, today, are insignificant contributors to human exposure to cadmium. Similarly, consumer use and disposal of cadmium-containing products, such as batteries, pigments and coatings, have been shown not to contribute significantly to increased human exposure to cadmium.
Cadmium is recognized to produce toxic effects on humans. Long-term occupational exposure can cause adverse health effects on the lungs and kidneys. Under normal conditions, adverse human health effects have not been encountered from general population exposure to cadmium. Potential risks have been extensively studied and are now tightly controlled.