Medical findings in nickel-cadmium battery workers

Isr J Med Sci. 1992 Aug-Sep;28(8-9):578-83.


Thirty-eight workers from a factory producing nickel-cadmium and other types of batteries came to us for medical evaluation. They included 21 women and 17 men (seniority 2-20 years, age range 31-63 years), and represented a self-selected subset of 700-900 ever-employed and 200+ recently or currently employed workers in the factory. Thirty-four worked on the nickel-cadmium assembly line. Symptoms and signs included: headache in 34; weakness, fatigue and lassitude in 26; dizziness in 16; pruritus and skin eruptions in 37; gingivitis, teeth loss and caries in 34; nasal congestion, nosebleeds and anosmia in 30; cough, phlegm production, wheezing and shortness of breath in 26; "asthma" in 14; bone pain in 18; urinary frequency, beta 2 microglobulinuria and kidney stones in 17; and sterility or multiple abortions (33) in 8 of 21 women. One additional patient had died from an "amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-like syndrome", while CT scans in six workers revealed brain atrophy. One other worker had leukemia, and two had died from cancer (lung and pancreas). Those who had worked for more than 10 years had more symptoms and signs than shorter-term employees, especially neurological illness, bone pain and urinary tract problems, including beta 2 microglobulinuria. Past blood and urinary cadmium levels were in the range of 1.6-8.7 micrograms/dl and 8-306 micrograms/l, respectively. Our findings indicated that: a) health risks for workers were not confined to the nickel-cadmium assembly line or to older workers, b) hazardous exposures still existed and illness appeared in new workers after a clean-up and intervention program, and c) exposures involved increased risks for renal disease and cancers. Finally, there is a need to control exposures and determine health risks in the full cohort of those ever employed, in the workers' children, and in the surrounding environment (air, ground, water) due to the dumping of waste from the plant.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cadmium Poisoning / etiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / etiology
  • Electric Power Supplies / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hazardous Waste
  • Humans
  • Israel / epidemiology
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nickel / poisoning*
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / chemically induced


  • Hazardous Waste
  • Nickel