Cadmium and its compounds

The substance
Cadmium is a naturally occurring chemical element and a heavy metal. In nature Cadmium is nearly always found in combination with other elements such as sulphur (cadmium sulphide). Cadmium is usually extracted from zinc, lead and copper ores, in which it occurs as minor component. Pure cadmium is a soft silver-white metal and is similar in much respect to zinc, with which it is usually found in nature. Cadmium melts at about 321 0C.

Cadmium is used for corrosion-resistant metal plating, nickel-cadmium and other batteries, pigments and plastic stabilisers. The metal is also used in bearings and low melting point alloys.

Major emissions
Major man-made releases to the environment of cadmium, and chemicals containing cadmium, are primarily through non-ferrous metal production from primary concentrates (such as zinc and aluminium) and iron and steel manufacture, and also through the use of phosphate fertilisers. Since cadmium naturally occurs in the earth's crust. releases to the environment also result from natural sources.

Impacts on human health and environment
Excessive exposure to cadmium and its compounds may cause cancer and pose a concern for human health, particularly in relation to kidney and bone effects. Cadmium is toxic to a wide range of micro-organisms and aquatic life. the main effects are on growth and reproduction. Cadmium is also readily accumulated by many organisms, particularly by micro-organisms and molluscs. Cadmium and its compounds are listed as priority hazardous substances in the Water Framework Directive. Cadmium and cadmium oxide are priority substances under Regulation 793/93. The draft risk assessment reports can be downloaded from

Emission to air reporting threshold: 10 kg/year

Emission to water reporting threshold: 5 kg/year

Data source: European Pollutant Emission Register