Project Details Risk Assessment of Effects of Cadmium on Human Health

Project No.: 
Start Date: 
01 January 2010
End Date: 
04 July 2018


IUPAC is the world authority on chemical nomenclature and terminology and on setting standards for the critical evaluation of chemical data. Division (VII) Chemistry and Human Health can provide guidance on risk assessment methodology and, as appropriate, provide assessments of risks to human health from chemicals of exceptional toxicity. This project should provide a model for such activities conforming to current best practice.


Cadmium is a metal that occurs generally in low concentrations of various chemical species in the ecosystem with high concentrations in some areas. Dispersion into the environment occurs from multiple sources including inadequate disposal of electronic waste. Sources in industrialized countries have been better controlled recently, but in many areas exposures exceed those that occurred before industrialization.

Cadmium accumulates in humans because of its very long biological half time in human tissues, particularly in the kidneys (10-30 years). In high exposure areas in Japan a clinical disease – Itai-itai disease – occurs. This disease is characterized by multiple fractures of bones and damaged kidneys. Recent epidemiological studies have reported less severe cadmium-related effects on kidneys and bones among humans exposed to cadmium species in the environment of countries such as China, Belgium, Sweden, UK and USA, sometimes in areas without obvious excessive exposure. Subgroups such as diabetics may be particularly affected. Cadmium is classified as carcinogenic to humans by IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, based on studies of occupational exposures. A few recent publications have reported such effects following environmental exposures.

It is important to consider all published information in a risk assessment of the effects on human health from cadmium species and this is the task of the present project. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recently reviewed cadmium. Their report will prove valuable but only considers exposure through food. Likewise, a report from the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) is due in June 2010, and will be available to us by the time of our second working meeting.

Task group members will compile and evaluate all relevant literature and write a manuscript for publication in PAC. Focus will be on health risks related to cadmium exposure at low level exposures. Reference will be made to existing risk assessment documents from WHO/IPCS, WHO/FAO/JECFA, ATSDR, USEPA, EU-RAR, EFSA and SCOEL.


> project announcement in Chem. Int. March-Apr 2010

> Dec 2015 update – Extensive discussions of a preliminary draft document presented at a meeting in Brussels 2014 have been taking place at meetings with individual members of the Group and by e-mail and telephone. A near final document is now available and will shortly be circulated among members for final approval. This final version will be sent for review by 15 reviewers. A final meeting of the Group will be held in the spring of 2016 when comments from reviewers will be included and a final manuscript submitted to PAC.

Jan 2018 update – A IUPAC Technical Report titled “Risk assessment of effects of cadmium on human health” has been published, Pure Appl. Chem., 90(4), pp. 755-808, 2018. AOP Published Online: 2018-01-10 | DOI:

Project completed

Page last updated 2 Apr 2018