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Ingestion and Inhalation of Cadmium Oxide

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cadmium oxide is a brown, crystalline, toxic substance that may be inhaled or ingested. It is a precursor of cadmium sulfate and cadmium chloride, and it may be obtained by evaporation or thermal decomposition of cadmium metal. It is used in electroplating, as a chemical intermediate, and as a catalyst or to improve the properties of other cadmium compounds. It is also used in a number of ceramic glazes, silver-zinc storage batteries, and plastics such as Teflon.

Occupational exposure to cadmium oxide fumes, dust, and pigments has been associated with a high rate of cancer among smelter workers. A cohort mortality investigation of smelter workers showed that deaths due to cancer increased by 44% over the 30-year period studied (Lemen, 1976).

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified cadmium oxide as a probable human carcinogen. Chronic cadmium poisoning can cause kidney damage, emphysema, bronchitis, and pulmonary edema.

Inhalation: For short-term exposures (less than one hour) of cadmium oxide fumes, acute symptoms are headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and gastrointestinal lesions. More intense or prolonged exposure results in chemical pneumonitis, which may be lethal.

Skin contact: For a few hours after inhalation, skin irritation and redness may occur. The irritation may progress to dermatitis, or it may irritate the eyes and mouth.

Intratracheally administered cadmium oxide is not considered to be toxic for rats, but inhalation of fumes causes a respiratory toxicity with symptoms similar to those of metal-fume fever. Inhalation of cadmium oxide at the NOAEL level of 0.025 mg/cu m for rats and 0.05 mg/cu m for mice results in minimal lung lesions.