Cadmium Human Health Risk Ecological Risk Socioeconomic Risk L M L Cadmium is a rare, naturally-occurring metal found in the atmosphere as a result of volcanic activity, ocean spray, and forest fires. Industrially, cadmium is used in electroplating processes, pigments, batteries, plastics, and alloys. Exposure can occur through direct ingestion of contaminated soil and by ingestion of plants grown in contaminated soil. Relatively high concentrations of cadmium can occur in shellfish. Shellfish ingest sediments as they feed, which may expose humans who consume them to harmful levels. Human exposures can also result from air and drinking water concentrations. Chronic low level exposures may result in kidney damage, and cadmium is a carcinogen by inhalation. What’s at risk? What are the human health impacts in New Jersey? Background levels to which the general population is exposed (including food, air, and drinking water pathways) are estimated at 30-50 micrograms per day. More than 95% of this exposure results from levels of cadmium in the general food supply. Changes in kidney function have been observed beginning at 200 micrograms per day. The extent to which these changes predict serious kidney problems is unclear. However, recent research indicates that even at background levels, about 1% of the population may develop adverse health effects. Subsistence shellfishing populations may be exposed to cadmium levels seven times higher than background, placing them over the threshold for changes in kidney function. New Jersey air concentrations are below the level at which scientists expect additional cancers might occur. There are few data indicating that cadmium exposure in New Jersey results in significant kidney effects. There are no regions in the state with excessively high cadmium levels as a result of industrial waste, however, the high sensitivity of aquatic invertebrates puts all aquatic habitats potentially at risk. These organisms are an integral part of the food chain, and cadmium can accumulate virtually everywhere as a result of atmospheric deposition. While there is no regular monitoring for cadmium in New Jersey, soil sampling for cadmium near contaminated sites has shown elevated levels. In most cases, the samples exceeded the benchmark by a factor of two or less. What are the socioeconomic impacts in New Jersey? Available evidence does not indicate that cadmium poses a threat to employment or property values. Estimates indicate that the cost of illnesses associated with cadmium are low, however, the damage to kidney function is permanent. Therefore, the socioeconomic risks are judged to be low to medium. What’s being done? Industrial discharges of cadmium to the environment are regulated, and cadmium-contaminated hazardous waste sites are cleaned up in accordance with federal and state law. There are no regulations on food, which is the biggest source of exposure in human populations. Use of cadmium in consumer products is being reduced. 111 Final Report of the New Jersey State Comparative Risk Project STRESSOR SUMMARIES The general population is exposed to low levels of cadmium in food. Subpopulations at increased risk include subsistence fishing populations and others who consume shellfish from cadmium concentrated waters. Increased dietary exposure may also result from consumption of crops grown on soil amended with cadmium-containing sludge. Freshwater aquatic organisms are most sensitive to cadmium, marine organisms are less sensitive, and mammals and birds are comparatively resistant. Since cadmium bioaccumulates, freshwater species higher on the food chain are particularly vulnerable. What are the ecological impacts in New Jersey?