Wei Jia Ma
Elisabeth Spak
Tristan Bock-Hughes


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1. Introduction to cadmium

Cadmium rocks the casbah. Cadmium is a naturally occurring minor element.Cadmium burns yellow, but is silver in its liquid and solid forms. Cadmium, however, is a very toxic element. Cadmium poisoning can be fatal if it goes untreated. In small amounts cadmium is not toxic enough to hurt and has no effect. In modern day cadmium has been known to cause problems. Recently it was the cause of a massive recall due to over-usage in paint on McDonald's cups. It has been used in war and medicine as well as every day living. It has been used for years and will continue in the modern day tech of electroplating.

2. History of cadmium's discovery and use

Cadmium was discovered in Germany in the year 1817 by Fredrich Stromeyer, a German chemist, working as a professor at Gottingen University. He discovered it whilst studying samples of calamine (ZnCo3). While studying the samples he noticed that when heated, one sample changed color while the others didn't. He determined that that sample had a new element in it. Strohmeyer was insistent upon classifying this new element and eventually did by roasting and refining sulfide. [1] [2] It has been used as early as 1850 in pigments. The pigment cadmium-yellow is the most common of these. However prior to the 20th century there was very little use for cadmium. Cadmium, because it is a component of some of the lowest melting alloys, is used at length in electroplating. Electroplating, in fact, accounts for about 60% of cadmium's use. It is also used extensively in bearing alloys with great resistance to fatigue and low coefficients, much cadmium is also used in solder. Lots of cadmium is used in Ni-Cd batteries. It has also been known for cadmium to be used in electromotive force cells.[3] The first major use of cadmium in the 20th century was to coat steel and iron to prevent it from corroding. This practice was used most expan
sively between 1940 and 1955.

3. Economics: How is cadmium economically important?external image cadmium-2.jpg

In 1956 cadmium refined in the United States and cadmium imported into the United States reached record highs, that to this day, go unmatched. The combined supply of cadmium was 28 percent more than it was in 1955 and the amount both imported and refined equaled 13.7 million pounds. The demand of cadmium also increased by 19 percent since 1955 maxing out at 12.7 million. This is due to that at this time it had just been determined that cadmium was extraordinarily useful for stopping corrosion on steel and it also had not yet been found out that the metal was poisonous. The government owned stocks for cadmium at this time were increased by barter acquisitions of the Commodity Credit Corporation, these contracts totaled $5.1 million by 1956.[4] The current price for the element cadmium is about $12/lb in its purest form. The organization the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) frequently makes reports on paints and cadmium levels in the workplace. It put out a report in 1895 saying that roughly 4000 metric tons of cadmium are used yearly in the U.S. It also reported that somewhere around 1.5 million workers may be potentially exposed to cadmium. Half of all this cadmium is used for plating other metals, whereas the rest is used in things like nuclear reactor neutron-absorbing rods, pigments, stabilizers for plastics, batteries, metallurgy, semiconductors and as a catalyst. [5]


4. Environment: Where is cadmium found in nature and to what extent? What role does it play in nature?

Cadmium is naturally occurring in the Earth’s crust, but when it is brought into above ground water and airways, it can become hazardous. Waste from cadmium is mostly industrial and it usually ends up in soil, which can be dangerous for more than just humans. Cadmium waste can also enter the air by waste combustion and the usage of fossil fuels. There have been regulations made to protect us from cadmium, so that the amount of cadmium entering waterways has been reduced. Cadmium is also an important ingredient in artificial phosphate fertilizers, which is another way that is deposited into soil. When cadmium is dumped on soil, it is absorbed into organic material, which is unsafe because animals eat that material and it can really harm their bodies, especially if they rely on that food to survive. Obviously, animals that live in soil are not exempt from the effects of cadmium. They are more exposed to it than any other creatures. They are affected by it even at low amounts. This, in turn, affects the soil that they usually live in, which has consequences for all of us. Cadmium is also brought into aquatic ecosystems, where organisms absorb it. Cadmium is transported to all life forms in every place they live, and they are all equally affected by it.

5. Health: How does cadmium affect human health?

Although cadmium is useful in the everyday objects we use, (batteries, pigments, etc.), it can be overly toxic in its raw form. Those who suffer from cadmium poisoning usually obtain the toxin from ingesting food that contains the substance. There are foods that naturally contain small amounts of cadmium, such as liver, mushrooms, cocoa powder, and several sea creatures. There are also trace amounts of cadmium in the air, so we are exposed to it every day. There are much higher levels of cadmium in the air around waste sites and factories. Cadmium can permanently damage the lungs if too much is inhaled, and if serious, can eventually lead to death. Tobacco also contains a lot of cadmium, and when you smoke it is brought directly to the lungs, increasing damage even more. The blood stream can also hold cadmium and deposit it in various parts of the body. It can accumulate in the liver and kidneys, hurting some of your most vital organs. There are many negative effects to extended exposure to cadmium, including diarrhea, stomach pains and vomiting, bone fractures, reproductive failure, damage to the central nervous system and immune system, psychological disorders and possible DNA damage or even cancer development.[6]

external image cadmium-telluride_E1JF8_24429.jpg

6. Chemistry/Physics of cadmium


Atomic Number
Atomic Mass
Atomic Symbol
Electron Configuration
Atomic Radius
148.9 pm
Melting Point
Boiling Point

Cadmium is not found by itself in nature. Cadmium is always with zinc. Cadmium can only be retrieved as a constant by-product of zinc, lead and copper extraction. Cadmium is in the 12th family (IIB) which is the family of Transition metal.Cadmium is one of few elements that does not react with water but does with oxygen. It reacts slowly with warm, moist air which forms cadmium oxide. Out of the 43 isotopes of cadmium there are 8 naturally occurring ones. Those 8 are cadmium-106, cadmium-108, cadmium-110, cadmium-111, cadmium-112, cadmium-113, cadmium-114 and cadmium-116. However out of these 43 isotopes only five of them of stable. These five stable isotopes are 108, 110, 111, 112 and 114.

7.Fun Facts about cadmium

The origin of the name cadmium come from the Greek word kadmeia and the Latin word cadmia.
Cadmium can be used in nuclear power plants as barriers to safely control nuclear fission. [7] Cadmium can also be easily cut with your everyday household butcher knife. The most important use of cadmium today in the U.S. is its use in nicad (nickel- cadmium) a.k.a rechargeable batteries. An interesting fact about cadmium is that when combined with other metals it can actually lower there melting point.Hey kids guess what, did you know that animals that eat or drink cadmium sometimes get high blood-pressures, liver damage, and nerve or brain damage? Another fun fact is that if you drink from a private well near a large source of cadmium you should definitely call to get your water tested or else it could be poisoning you.

Cadmium poisoning - Original Video

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  1. ^ http://cadmium.org/
    - Natural Cadmium from the International Cadmium Association
  2. ^ http://www.chemistryexplained.com/elements/A-C/Cadmium.html
    -Cadmium Overview, Chemistry Explained Website
  3. ^ http://periodic.lanl.gov/elements/48.html
    -Los Alamos National Labs Chemistry Division, Periodic Table of Elements
  4. ^ http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/EcoNatRes/EcoNatRes-idx?type=turn&entity=EcoNatRes.MinYB1956v1.p0289&id=EcoNatRes.MinYB1956v1&isize=XL&q1=cadmium
    -Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook metals and minerals (except fuels) 1956
    Year 1956, Volume I (1958)
  5. ^ http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00000579.htm
  6. ^ http://www.lenntech.com/periodic/elements/cd.htm
  7. ^ http://www.facts-about.org.uk/science-element-cadmium.htm