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Study Suggests Cadmium Exposure Significantly Increases Cancer Risk

Jan 18, 2006 | A study conducted by researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium reveals that exposure to the metal cadmium considerably appears to increase significantly the risk of developing lung cancer and other malignancies.

Cadmium, a metal with toxic effects, is found in rechargeable batteries and is a byproduct of zinc smelting.

The study, published in The Lancet Oncology, consisted of 500 individuals who lived in northeast Belgium near three zinc-smelting plants.  Researchers found that the risk of lung cancer for people living near the zinc-smelting plant was over 300% higher than individuals in the control group who lived in areas with little or no exposure to cadmium.

According to Dr. Jan A Staessen, a member of the research team: “Cadmium is a metal with high toxic effects, has an elimination half-life of 10 to 30 years, and accumulates in the human body, particularly the kidney. We have shown that the environmental exposure to cadmium in north-east Belgium in the neighborhood of the zinc smelters was associated with about 30% increased urinary cadmium excretion, renal dysfunction, increased calciuria, osteoporosis, and a 35% population-attributable risk of fractures.”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has also classified Cadmium as a human carcinogen.  Still, prior studies related to the cancer risk created by environmental exposure to cadmium have produced inconclusive results.

Participants living in the area with the highest exposure to cadmium experienced an increased risk of lung cancer that was similar to the increased risk from smoking cigarettes.  

Dr. Staessen believes that the results of this study illustrate a clear connection between the risk of lung cancer and environmental exposure to cadmium.  This is the first study to report such a definitive connection.  

The study also indicates that current or former pollution from environmental cadmium present a health risk both presently and in the future.  Keeping this information in mind, a solution must be reached in order to protect residents in areas where cadmium exposure is a potential threat. 

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