Cadmium in Drinking Water

Heavy metals, metals with specific density of more than 5 gm/cm3, have been used in everyday applications. Human exposure to heavy metals has immediate health concerns. Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, and Arsenic were identified as major threats to human health (Jarup, 2003). Cadmium has been commercially used in PVC products, colour pigment, alloys, rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries and anti-corrosion agent (IFC, 1998; Jarup, 2003). Drinking water can be contaminated with Cadmium, caused by impure galvanized pipes and cadmium-containing solders in fittings, water heaters, water coolers and taps (WHO, 2011).

Cadmium is highly toxic, non-degradable and persistent element (Rao et al., 2010). Toxic form of Cadmium is free Cadmium divalent ion however other forms such as organic and inorganic ligands may produce adverse health effects (Environment Canada, 2014). Hydrated ion, inorganic and organic complex forms of Cadmium can be found in surface and ground water.  Behaviour of Cadmium in water is affected by pH, hardness, alkalinity, oxidation reduction potential and type and abundance of organic ligands and hydroxides (Environment Canada, 2014). Toxicity of Cadmium is highly influenced by water hardness, the lower the water hardness the lower the toxicity of Cadmium (Environment Canada, 2014).

Causative factors for Cadmium pollution in water include mine water from mine tailings, process water from smelters, phosphate mining and electroplating wastes (IFC, 1998). Diffuse cadmium pollution is mainly caused by fertilizers produced from phosphate ores (WHO, 2011). Soil cadmium contamination is produced from industrial emissions and the application of fertilizer and sewage sludge to farm land (Jarup, 2003). Various pollutants removal technologies can be applied to remove cadmium from drinking water. Chemical precipitation, ion exchange, cementation, solvent extraction, membrane separation and adsorption are available technologies for the removal of cadmium from water (Rao et al., 2010).


Environment Canada (2014) Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life [Online] Available at [Accessed on 23 December 2014].

International Finance Corporation (IFC)(1998) Cadmium [Online] Available at [Accessed on 23 December 2014].

Jarup, L. (2003) Hazards of Heavy Metal Contamination. British Medical Bulletin, Vol 68 (1), pp 167-182.

Rao, K.S., Mohapatra, M., Anand, S and Venkateswarl, P. (2010) Review of Cadmium Removal from Aqueous Solutions. International Journal of Engineering, Science and Technology, Vol 2 (7), pp 81-103.

World Health Organization (WHO)(2011) Cadmium in Drinking Water: Background Document for Development of WHO Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality. [Online] Available at [Accessed on 23 December 2014].


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