How Does Cadmium Contaminate Food

Cadmium enters the food chain in much the same way that lead and mercury do—by means of industrial contamination. Cadmium is often used as a covering of other metals or in the manufacture of batteries and semiconductors; it readily transforms into a gas as the metal ores are smelted. The cadmium then condenses to form cadmium oxide, which deposits in soil and water near the source. Cadmium accumulates in lower marine life, such as plankton, mollusks, and shellfish, and continues through the food chain as these organisms are consumed. However, contamination of the human food supply is limited by this route since cadmium is toxic to fish and fish embryos. In contrast to seafood, vegetables are affected differently because cadmium is taken up by the leaves and roots of plants, so those near industrial sources may be very high in cadmium.

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