• Inhalation

Breathing air with very high levels of cadmium can severely damage the lungs and may cause death.

Breathing air with lower levels of cadmium over long periods of time (for years) results in a build-up of cadmium in the kidney, and if sufficiently high, may result in kidney disease.
Laboratory animals
  • Inhalation

Damage to the lungs and nasal cavity has been observed in animals exposed to cadmium.
  • Oral

Eating food or drinking water with very high cadmium levels severely irritates the stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhea, and sometimes death.

Eating lower levels of cadmium over a long period of time can lead to a build-up of cadmium in the kidneys. If the build-up of cadmium is high enough, it will damage the kidneys.

Exposure to lower levels of cadmium for a long time can also cause bones to become fragile and break easily.
Laboratory animals
  • Oral

Kidney and bone effects have also been observed in laboratory animals ingesting cadmium.

Anemia, liver disease, and nerve or brain damage have been observed in animals eating or drinking cadmium. We have no good information on people to indicate what cadmium levels people would need to eat or drink to result in these diseases, or if they would occur at all.
CancerLung cancer has been found in some studies of workers exposed to cadmium in the air and studies of rats that breathed in cadmium.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that cadmium and cadmium compounds are known human carcinogens. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that cadmium is carcinogenic to humans. The EPA has determined that cadmium is a probable human carcinogen.


Cover of Toxicological Profile for Cadmium
Toxicological Profile for Cadmium.
Faroon O, Ashizawa A, Wright S, et al.

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