Cadmium exposure in the population: from health risks to strategies of prevention

Biometals. 2010 Oct;23(5):769-82. doi: 10.1007/s10534-010-9343-z. Epub 2010 Jun 3.


We focus on the recent evidence that elucidates our understanding about the effects of cadmium (Cd) on human health and their prevention. Recently, there has been substantial progress in the exploration of the shape of the Cd concentration-response function on osteoporosis and mortality. Environmental exposure to Cd increases total mortality in a continuous fashion without evidence of a threshold, independently of kidney function and other classical factors associated with mortality including age, gender, smoking and social economic status. Pooled hazard rates of two recent environmental population based cohort studies revealed that for each doubling of urinary Cd concentration, the relative risk for mortality increases with 17% (95% CI 4.2-33.1%; P < 0.0001). Tubular kidney damage starts at urinary Cd concentrations ranging between 0.5 and 2 μg urinary Cd/g creatinine, and recent studies focusing on bone effects show increased risk of osteoporosis even at urinary Cd below 1 μg Cd/g creatinine. The non-smoking adult population has urinary Cd concentrations close to or higher than 0.5 μg Cd/g creatinine. To diminish the transfer of Cd from soil to plants for human consumption, the bioavailability of soil Cd for the plants should be reduced (external bioavailability) by maintaining agricultural and garden soils pH close to neutral (pH-H(2)O of 7.5; pH-KCL of 6.5). Reducing the systemic bioavailability of intestinal Cd can be best achieved by preserving a balanced iron status. The latter might especially be relevant in groups with a lower intake of iron, such as vegetarians, and women in reproductive phase of life. In exposed populations, house dust loaded with Cd is an additional relevant exposure route. In view of the insidious etiology of health effects associated with low dose exposure to Cd and the current European Cd intake which is close to the tolerable weekly intake, one should not underestimate the importance of the recent epidemiological evidence on Cd toxicity as to its medical and public health implications.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Body Burden
  • Cadmium / administration & dosage
  • Cadmium / pharmacokinetics
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus / chemically induced
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Environmental Pollutants / administration & dosage
  • Environmental Pollutants / pharmacokinetics
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced
  • Male
  • Maximum Allowable Concentration
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Osteoporosis / chemically induced
  • Risk Factors


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Cadmium