Recent research shows that cadmium could very well be more dangerous to children’s health than lead. While heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury are often the first to pop up when discussing or thinking about heavy metals and human health, cadmium remains the lesser mentioned metal compromising the health of many — especially children. Current and future research will likely continue to make the dangers of cadmium more well known.
Is Cadmium More Dangerous for Children than Lead?
The study, led by Harvard University researchers, found that children with higher cadmium levels are three times as likely to have learning disabilities than those with lower levels. Study’s senior author Dr. Robert Wright explains:
“One of the important points of the study is that we didn’t study a population of kids who had very high exposures. We studied a population representative of the U.S. That we found any [effect] suggests this is occurring at relatively low levels…It does certainly point to the fact that we need more attention paid to the neurotoxic effects of cadmium in children”
A total of 2,199 children between the ages 6 and 15 were included in the study, with 12.6 percent of them having a learning disability and 10.5 percent being enrolled in special education classes. Those with the highest cadmium levels were 3.21 times more likely to have a learning disability than children less exposed.
Although cadmium is naturally found in much of the soil across the U.S., the heavy metal is also released by battery manufacturers, smelters, electroplating plants, and other industries. Cadmium is also present in inexpensive jewelry for kids. In 2010 the Associated Press tested children’s jewelry manufactured in China and found levels of cadmium, prompting store recalls. Canada also made the decision to crack down on cadmium in 2011, following tests performed in October of 2010 that found high concentrations of cadmium in some children’s jewelry sold in Canadian stores.
While there needs to be more research on the dangers of cadmium, past studies are collectively very consistent in showing how cadmium is a dangerous neurotoxin. High levels of exposure can lead to neurological problems as well as mental retardation and decreased IQ in children. The scientists highly recommend that the government re-evaluate cadmium’s place in society by instituting stricter rules for cadmium in food, soil, workplaces, and consumer products.