Adverse health effects of chronic exposure to low-level cadmium in foodstuffs and cigarette smoke

Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Jul;112(10):1099-103. doi: 10.1289/ehp.6751.


Cadmium is a cumulative nephrotoxicant that is absorbed into the body from dietary sources and cigarette smoking. The levels of Cd in organs such as liver and kidney cortex increase with age because of the lack of an active biochemical process for its elimination coupled with renal reabsorption. Recent research has provided evidence linking Cd-related kidney dysfunction and decreases in bone mineral density in nonoccupationally exposed populations who showed no signs of nutritional deficiency. This challenges the previous view that the concurrent kidney and bone damage seen in Japanese itai-itai disease patients was the result of Cd toxicity in combination with nutritional deficiencies, notably, of zinc and calcium. Further, such Cd-linked bone and kidney toxicities were observed in people whose dietary Cd intakes were well within the provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) set by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives of 1 microg/kg body weight/day or 70 microg/day. This evidence points to the much-needed revision of the current PTWI for Cd. Also, evidence for the carcinogenic risk of chronic Cd exposure is accumulating and Cd effects on reproductive outcomes have begun to emerge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cadmium / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Food Contamination*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Public Health
  • Risk Assessment
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Cadmium