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The text on this page is taken from an equivalent page of the IEHIAS-project.

Cadmium (Cd), a by-product of zinc production, is a cumulative poison that can cause kidney and bone damage following prolonged exposure in the environment and the industry

Cadmium as a biomarker

Sample collection and storage


Blood and urine (untimed urine sample) are the biological samples commonly used to monitor exposure to Cd.


  • Inhalation is a main source of exposure in smokers and occupationally exposed persons. For others, food contributes to the majority of the intake
  • Cadmium is mainly stored in the liver and kidneys, and is excreted via urine
  • The biological half-life of Cd is about 100 days in blood and more than 10 years in urine

Sampling conditions:

Blood and urine should be collected in containers free of any metal contamination. Samples can be stored at 4°C or frozen.

Sample measurement

Analytical aspects:

  • atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS) or inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS)
  • Sensitivity in 0.01 to 0.1 µg/l

Performance characteristics:

  • Analytical reproducibility is around 1-2 %
  • Inter- and intralaboratory variability around 5-10%


Various national and international intercomparison programs are in place, methods are well defined and a wide variety of certified standards and reference materials are available

Confounding factors:

Diuresis is a potential confounder of urinary Cd concentration. Smoking is a confounder for both blood and urinary Cd

Data interpretation

Concentrations reported in literature:

  • Cd in blood of adult non-smoker: < 2 µg/l
  • Cd in blood of adult smokers: < 5 µg/l
  • Cd in blood of children: < 0.5 µg/l
  • Cd in urine of adults: < 2 µg/g creatinin
  • Cd in urine of children: < 0.5 µg/g creatinin

Dose-response/effect relationships:

Cd in blood (µg/l) or in urine (µg/g cr)
< 2 Normal
2-5 Tubular proteinuria unlikely
5-10 Risk of tubular proteinuria in susceptible individuals
> 10 Dose-dependent increase in the risk of tubular proteinuria

Time trend, geographical variation, susceptibel groups:

Few comparative data exist about the geographical and temporal variations of Cd body burden in Europe. Although a decrease of the Cd body burden has been reported in the general population of some countries, human exposure shows little change compared to the drastic decrease of lead exposure.

See also

Integrated Environmental Health Impact Assessment System
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