What is cadmium?
Cadmium is a chemical element, one of the metallic components in the earth’s crust and oceans that comes from the gradual process of erosion and abrasion of rocks and soils, and from singular events such as forest fires and volcanic eruptions. It is present everywhere in air, water, soils and foodstuffs. It was first discovered in Germany in 1817 as a by-product of the zinc refining process. Its name is derived from the Latin cadmia and the Greek kadmeia.
Because of its toxicity to humans and other living organisms, concerns have been raised on the effects of cadmium exposure to human health, soil sustainability and ecosystems.
The major route of cadmium intake for humans, besides smoking, is through food or water. This is largely due to the presence of trace amounts of cadmium in foodstuffs of natural origin or to atmospheric deposition, to dumping of industrial wastes, or to the use of phosphate fertilizers or sludge on agricultural soils.
Cadmium is a naturally occurring impurity in most phosphate sources. The fertilizer industry is working together with the scientific community and regulatory bodies to establish the right risk management procedures to control and reduce inputs of cadmium in the environment, and lower its flow and accumulation through the food chain.