Cadmium is highly 'persistent' in the environment and bioaccumulates. In heavily contaminated areas, resuspended dust (caused by vehicles or wind blowing cadmium particles off the ground) can constitute a substantial part of the exposure for the local population. In Europe, air pollution and fertilisers (both mineral and organic) contribute almost equally to annual exposure. Both of these increase the relatively large accumulations of Cd in topsoil, thereby increasing the risk of future exposure through food. The levels of Cd in non-smokers have not decreased over the last decade (EEA, 2013).
The kidneys and bones are the critical organs affected by chronic environmental exposure to Cd. The main effects of this exposure include impaired kidney function and increased risk of osteoporosis. An increased risk of lung cancer has also been reported following inhalation exposure to Cd.
Cadmium is toxic to aquatic life as it is directly absorbed by organisms in water. It interacts with cellular components, causing toxic effects in the cells of all organisms.
Estimated total cost in Euros of Cadmium pollution from electricity production in 2014 across the EU22