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Cadmium Exposure Greatly Increases Cancer Risk

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Yet another study has been conducted, revealing that exposure to the metal cadmium significantly increases the risk of developing lung cancer and other malignancies, according to researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

The study consisted of 500 individuals who lived near three zinc-smelting plants. Researchers found that the risk of lung cancer for people living near the zinc-smelting plant was over 300% higher than individuals in the control group who lived in areas with little or no exposure to cadmium.

Participants living in the area with the highest exposure to cadmium experienced an increased risk of lung cancer similar to that of cigarette smoking and increased risk of lung cancer.

But why has it taken so long to make the public aware of the deadly effects of cadmium? A [warning] was prepared in 1984 by Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommending that "Cadmium and its compounds be regarded as potential occupational carcinogens and that appropriate controls be used to reduce worker exposure."

Approximately 4,000 metric tons of cadmium are used yearly in the United States, of which about half is used for plating other metals and half is used in pigments, batteries, stabilizers for plastics, metallurgy, nuclear reactor neutron-absorbing rods, and semiconductors and as a catalyst.

Based on this information from the National Occupational Hazard Survey, NIOSH estimated (in 1984) that approximately 1,500,000 workers may be potentially exposed to cadmium, of which approximately 100,000 are identified with exposure to specific cadmium compounds or with industries that utilize cadmium.

Sources of potential worker exposure to cadmium include:

• ore smelting operations
• mist from cadmium-containing electroplating baths
• calcination (drying) of cadmium pigments
• handling of powdered cadmium oxide in production of cadmium soaps that are used to stabilize plastics.

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