Saturday, October 28, 2006

Cadmium

Cadmium is a widespread heavy metal in the environment and in our bodies. It is very poisonous, and we only excrete cadmium in very small amounts.

Cadmium can cause damage to all types of body cells. By damaging the cell membrane, cadmium increases the permeability of the cells, one of the consequences being that the transfer of other heavy metals into the cells is facilitated. In the acute stage, cadmium intoxication causes enteritis. A slow accumulation of cadmium takes place, mainly in the kidneys; the liver and bones are other important sites for cadmium storage.

Food products account for more than 90 percent of human exposure to cadmium, except in the vicinity of cadmium-emitting industries, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Cadmium has fast uptake through the roots to edible leaves, fruits and seeds. Cadmium builds up in animal milk and fatty tissues. A 1990 study showed that acute cadmium toxicity from food is rare, but chronic exposure at lower levels increases cadmium in certain body organs.

One source of cadmium in our environment, and main reason for cadmium accumulating in the body, is tobacco smoke. One cigarette contains 16-24 mcg. of cadmium of which the body absorbs approximately half. In addition to this, 5 - 10% of the cadmium from our food and other sources is absorbed; therefore, a substantial amount of cadmium is stored in our body system over a number of years.

Prolonged accumulation of cadmium in the body stains the teeth. It can cause damage to the nervous system, decrease the detoxification power of the organism, it can cause high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, damage the immune system; most importantly the antibody production, decrease fertility, cause anemia, emphysema, and cancer.

Increased concentrations of cadmium had been found in the placenta of women who have given birth to children with low birth weight, neural damage, and Down’s syndrome. Children who are exposed to large concentrations of cadmium in their environment often have learning disabilities.

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