Pollutant Information: Cadmium 

About Cadmium

Category: Heavy metals and base cations

Effects of acute inhalation exposure to cadmium consist mainly of effects on the lung, such as pulmonary irritation. Chronic effects via inhalation can cause a build-up of cadmium in the kidneys that can lead to kidney disease.

Emissions have declined by 81% since 1990. The main sources are residential sector and industrial use of wood and other biomass fuels, which contributed 31% of emissions in 2021. Historically non-ferrous metal manufacture and municipal solid waste incineration were very significant sources. Emissions from non-ferrous metal activities have declined across the time-series, primarily due to the closure of the UK's only primary lead-zinc smelting plant in 2003 and only secondary copper refinery in 1999. Improved controls at Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) incinerators played an important role in emission reductions from 1993 to 1996, and the contribution from the burning of MSW have decreased from 37% of total UK cadmium emissions in 1990 to 3% in 2021.

» View and Download Cadmium emission summary data

Time series graph

Notable events

Start year End year Sector Information Impact
1993 1998 Metal Production Decline in emission due to abatement and declining activity in the metal industry Decrease in emissions
1992 1996 Waste Incineration Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) incinerators not meeting the new standards closed in the period leading up to December 1996. Improved abatement at waste incineration plant from 1993 (and requirement to including heat recovery/electricity gen.) Decrease in emissions
1984 1985 Combustion in Energy and Transformation Industry 1984 miners' strike led to a significant decrease in the use of coal for combustion in electricity generation. A noticeable dip in emissions from coal-fired combustion sources in 1984 but increase in use of alternative fuels (e.g. Oil) and resulting emissions of pollutants (Cadmium & Lead). Increase in emissions
1980 1989 Production Processes Chemical industry grew steadily until 1989 through increased bulk chemical manufacturing. Increase in emissions
1999 2011 Production Processes Tightening emission controls for the chemical industry under IPPC enforced by the Environment Agency and Defra. Decrease in emissions

Cadmium contributes to the following...

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