Figure 1. Cadmium, atomic number 48 and atomic weight of 112.411.[1]

Cadmium is the 48th element on the periodic table. It is a poisonous metal and within the environment it is classified as a harmful pollutant.[2] It can be released into the environment from natural sources like volcanoes, and from human activities such as fertilizer use, fossil fuel combustion, mining and smelting, waste incineration, and even tobacco smoking.[3] [4] The percentages of total emissions can be seen via the data visualization below.

Some properties of cadmium include:[2]

Atomic weight 112.411
Density (at 0oC) 8.69 g/cm3
Boiling point 1040 K
Melting point 594.22 K

Due to its toxicity cadmium use in industry has been limited, however it is still used for some applications. Most uses involves combining it with nickel within nickel-cadmium batteries. It is also used in control rods within nuclear reactors because of its neutron absorbing properties.[4] Cadmium is used outside of the energy sector in creating corrosion resistant metals and even brightly coloured paints.[5]

Health effects

Cadmium is very poisonous to humans, and its target organ is the kidney. It may either be inhaled or ingested which may lead to several complications such as kidney stones, osteopororis, softening of the bones and even lung cancer. High levels of inhalation result in complications of breathing due to chronic obstructed airway disease, and can also cause effects like pulmonary oedema which can be lethal.[4]


Emissions of cadmium have been reduced drastically in recent years. To see this, along with more data on cadmium and other pollutants, click here. These reduced emissions are in part due to the awareness of the toxic effects, however there is still more that can be done. Recycling of cadmium products should always be done after the product's lifetime, and it should never be disposed of improperly.

Cadmium Pollution Sources

The chart below shows the human releases of Cadmium in Canada.


The video below is from the University of Nottingham's periodic videos project.[6] They have created a complete suite of short videos on every element on the periodic table of elements.

For more information on cadmium, please see the International Cadmium Assocation.


  1. Created internally by a member of the Energy Education team.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jefferson Lab. (Accessed September 19, 2015). The Element Cadmium [Online], Available:
  3. Cadium, Cadmium exposure and human health [Online], Available:
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 World Health Organization. (accessed September 19, 2015). Exposure to Cadmium: A Major Public Health Concern [Online], Available:
  5. Cadium, Cadmium exposure and human health [Online], Available:
  6. See more videos from the University of Nottingham on different elements here:

Authors and Editors

Jordan Hanania, Kailyn Stenhouse, Jason Donev
Last updated: June 4, 2018
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