32 No. 2
Risk Assessment of Effects of Cadmium on Human Health
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 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. 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 the task group by the time of its 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. References will be made to existing risk assessment documents from WHO/IPCS, WHO/FAO/JECFA, ATSDR, USEPA, EU-RAR, EFSA, and others. The Chemistry and Human Health Division 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.
For more information and comments, contact Task Group Chair Gunnar F. Nordberg <[email protected]>.
last modified 8 April 2010.
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