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Cadmium Exposure Could Be Damaging Children’s Health more than Lead


While elements such as arsenic, lead, and mercury are often the first to pop up when discussing or thinking about toxic elemental species and human health, cadmium remains the lesser mentioned metal compromising the health of many — especially children. Although cadmium is naturally found in the environment, the heavy metal is also released by battery manufacturers, smelters, electroplating plants, and many other industries. Cadmium is also present in inexpensive jewelry for kids imported from China especially since lead has been regulated more strictly.

The new study:
The researchers evaluated associations between urine cadmium concentration and reported learning disabilities (LD), special education utilization, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in US children using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data. They analyzed data from a subset of participants in NHANES (1999-2004) who were 6-15 years old and had spot urine samples analyzed for cadmium. A total of 2,199 children were included in the study, with 12.6 percent of them having a learning disability and 10.5 percent being enrolled in special education classes. Those with the highest cadmium levels were 3.21 times more likely to have a learning disability than children less exposed. The researchers also stress the point, that they observed these associations at exposure levels that were previously considered to be without adverse effects and these levels are common among U.S. children.

While current and future research will likely continue to make the dangers of cadmium more well known, past studies are collectively very consistent in showing that cadmium is a dangerous neurotoxin. High levels of exposure can lead to neurological problems as well as mental retardation and decreased IQ in children. The scientists highly recommend that the government re-evaluate cadmium’s place in society by instituting stricter rules for cadmium in food, soil, workplaces, and consumer products.

In Europe, cadmium compounds have been included in the list of chemicals of very high concern (SIN List) in order to speed up the implementation of REACH (see the news below) and the European Commision banned cadmium in plastics in December 2011.

The new study

  T. Ciesielski, J. Weuve, D.C. Bellinger, J. Schwartz, N. Lanphear, R.O. Wright,  Cadmium Exposure and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in U.S. Children, Environ. Health Perspect. (2012). doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104152

Analytical techniques applied for this study

Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (for cadmium in spot urine of children)

Related Studies (newest first)

B. Amzal, B. Julin, M. Vahter, A. Wolk, G. Johanson, A. Akesson, Population toxicokinetic modeling of cadmium for health risk assessment, Environ. Health Perspect., 117/8 (2009)  1293-1301. doi:10.1289/ehp.0800317

Y. Cao, A. Chen, J. Radcliffe, K.N. Dietrich, R.L. Jones, K. Caldwel, et al., Postnatal Cadmium Exposure, Neurodevelopment and Blood Pressure in Children at 2, 5 and 7 Years of Age, Environ. Health Perspect., 117 (2009) 1580-1586. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0900765

T.E. Froehlich, B.P. Lanphear, P. Auinger, R. Hornung, J.N. Epstein, J. Braun, et al. 2009. Association of tobacco and lead exposures with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Pediatrics, 124/6 (2009) e1054-1063. doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-0738

R.O. Wright, C. Amarasiriwardena, A.D. Woolf, R. Jim, D.C. Bellinger, Neuropsychological correlates of hair arsenic, manganese, and cadmium levels in school-age children residing near a hazardous waste site, Neurotoxicology, 27/2 (2006) 210-216. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2005.10.001

M.K. Viaene, R. Masschelein, J. Leenders, M. De Groof, L.J.V.C. Swerts, H.A. Roels, Neurobehavioural effects of occupational exposure to cadmium: a cross sectional epidemiological study, Occup. Environ. Med., 57 (2000) 19-27. doi:10.1136/oem.57.1.19

I. Desi, L. Nagymajtenyi, H. Schulz, Behavioural and neurotoxicological changes caused by cadmium treatment of rats during development,  J. Appl. Toxicol., 18/1 (1998) 63-70.
DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-1263(199801/02)18:1<63::AID-JAT475>3.0.CO;2-Z

L. Nagymajtenyi, H. Schulz, I. Desi, Behavioural and functional neurotoxicological changes caused by cadmium in a three-generational study in rats, Hum. Exp. Toxicol., 16/12 (1997) 691-699. doi: 10.1177/096032719701601201

R.R. Lauwerys, A.M. Bernard, H.A. Roels, J.P. Buchet, Cadmium: exposure markers as
predictors of nephrotoxic effects, Clin. Chem.,  40/7Pt.2 (1994) 1391-1394.

Jack R. Nation, Cathy A. Grover, Gerald R. Bratton, Juan A. Salinas, Behavioral antagonism between lead and cadmium, Neurotoxicol. Teratol., 12/2 (1990) 99-104. doi:    10.1016/0892-0362(90)90119-W

K. Lehotzky, G. Ungvary, D. Polinak, A. Kiss, Behavioral deficits due to prenatal exposure to cadmium chloride in CFY rat pups, Neurotox. Teratol.,  12/2 (1990) 169-172. doi: 10.1016/0892-0362(90)90130-5

J.R. Nation, G.D. Frye, J. Von Stultz, G.R. Bratton, Effects of combined lead and cadmium exposure: changes in schedule-controlled responding and in dopamine, serotonin, and their metabolites, Behav. Neurosci., 103/5 (1989) 1108-1114.

  M.M. Ali, R.C. Murthy, S.V.  Chandra, Developmental and longterm neurobehavioral toxicity of low level in-utero cadmium exposure in rats, Neurobehav. Toxicol. Teratol., 8/5  (1986) 463-468.

C. Bonithon-Kopp, G. Huel, T. Moreau, R. Wendling, Prenatal exposure to lead and cadmium and psychomotor development of the child at 6 years, Neurobehav. Toxicol. Teratol.,  8/3 (1986) 307-310.

C. Moon, M. Marlowe, J. Stellern, J. Errera, Main and interaction effects of metallic pollutants on cognitive functioning,  J. Learn. Disabil., 18/4 (1985) 217-221. DOI: 10.1177/002221948501800407

M. Marlowe, J. Stellern, J. Errera, C. Moon, Main and interaction effects of metal pollutants on visual-motor performance, Arch. Environ. Health,  40/4 (1985) 221-225.

J.R. Nation, A.E. Bourgeois, D.E. Clark, D.M. Baker, M.F. Hare, The effects of oral cadmium exposure on passive avoidance performance in the adult rat, Toxicol. Lett. , 20/1 (1984) 41-47. doi: 10.1016/0378-4274(84)90180-2

R.W. Thatcher, R. McAlaster, M.L. Lester, Evoked potentials related to hair cadmium and lead in children, Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci., 425 (1984) 384-390. DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1984.tb23560.x

J. R. Nation, D.E. Clark, A.E. Bourgeois, D.M. Baker, The effects of chronic cadmium exposure on schedule controlled responding and conditioned suppression in the adult rat, Neurobehav. Toxicol. Teratol., 5/3 (1983) 275-282.

M. Marlowe, J. Errera, J. Jacobs, Increased lead and cadmium burdens among mentally
retarded children and children with borderline intelligence, Am. J. Ment. Defic., 87/5 (1983) 477-483.

I.D. Capel, M.H. Pinnock, H.M. Dorrell, D.C. Williams, E.C. Grant, Comparison of concentrations of some trace, bulk, and toxic metals in the hair of normal and dyslexic children, Clin. Chem., 27/6  (1981) 879-881.

D.L. Ely, R.A. Mostardi, N. Woebkenberg, D. Worstell, Aerometric and hair trace metal
content in learning-disabled children, Environ. Res., 25/2 (1981) 325-339. doi: 10.1016/0013-9351(81)90035-9

R.O. Pihl, M. Parkes, Hair element content in learning disabled children, Science, 198/4313 (1977) 204-206.  DOI: 10.1126/science.905825

Related EVISA Resources

EVISA Brief summary: ICP-MS: A versatile detection system
EVISA Link Database: Industrial use of cadmium
EVISA Link Database: Toxicity of cadmium
EVISA Link Database: Environmental cadmium pollution

Related EVISA News

February 12, 2012: Study links high levels of cadmium and lead in blood to pregnancy delay
June 7, 2011: European Commission announces ban on cadmium in plastics
September 18, 2008: REACH Update: List of 300 chemicals of very high concern

last time modified: February 15, 2012

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