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Monitoring occupational exposure to cadmium
The toxicity of cadmium resembles the other heavy metals (arsenic, mercury and lead) in that it attacks the kidney; renal dysfunction with proteinuria with slow onset (over a period of years) is the typical presentation. Measurable changes in proximal tubule function, such as decreased clearance of para-aminohippuric acid also occur over a period of years, and precede over renal failure.
Breathing the fumes of cadmium vapors leads to nasal epithelial deterioration and pulmonary congestion resembling chronic emphysema.
The most common source of cadmium exposure is tobacco smoke, which has been implicated as the primary sources of the metal leading to reproductive toxicity in both males and females.
Chronic exposure to cadmium causes accumulated renal damage. The excretion of cadmium is proportional to creatinine except when renal damage has occurred. Renal damage due to cadmium exposure can be detected by increased cadmium excretion relative to creatinine.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandated (Fed Reg 57:42,102-142,463, September 1992) that all monitoring of employees exposed to cadmium in the workplace should be done using the measurement of urine cadmium and creatinine, expressing the results of mcg of cadmium per gram of creatinine.
Cadmium excretion >3.0 mcg/g creatinine indicates significant exposure to cadmium.
Results >15 mcg/g creatinine are considered indicative of severe exposure.
Collection of urine specimens through a catheter frequently results in elevated values, because rubber contains trace amounts of cadmium that are extracted as urine passes through the catheter.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that only a urine collection preserved with 0.66% nitric acid may be used for testing.
High concentrations of gadolinium and iodine are known to interfere with most metals tests. If either gadolinium- or iodine-containing contrast media has been administered, a specimen should not be collected for 96 hours.
1. deBurbure C, Buchet J-P, Leroyer A, et al: Renal and Neurologic Effects of Cadmium, Lead, Mercury, and Arsenic in Children: Evidence of Early Effects and Multiple Interactions at Environmental Exposure Levels. Environ Health Perspect 2006;114:584–590
2. Schulz C, Angerer J, Ewers U, et al: Revised and new reference values for environmental pollutants in urine or blood of children in Germany derived from the German Environmental Survey on Children 2003-2006(GerESIV). Int. J. Hyg. Environ. Health 2009;212:637–647
3. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, US Department of Labor: Cadmium Exposure Evaluation. Updated 9/2/2008. Available from URL:osha.gov/SLTC/cadmium/evaluation.html