Cadmium (Cd)

Cadmium (Cd) is a chemical element with an atomic number of 48 in the periodic table of elements. Found in Earth’s crust at about 0.5 ppm (parts per million), it belongs to the group of rare metals. As a member of both the transition and toxic metals family of periodic table elements, this naturally occurring soft metal has two valence electrons that make cadmium relatively unreactive with the other chemical elements. 

Fact Box

Chemical and Physical Properties of Cadmium

The symbol in the periodic table of elements: (Cd)

Atomic number: 48

Atomic weight (mass): 112.41 g.mol -1

Group number: 12  (Transition metals)

Period: 5

Color: Silvery-grey with a blue metallic hue

Physical state: A soft metal at a room temperature

Half-life: 38+ years

Electronegativity according to Pauling: 1.69

Density: 8.65 at 20°C

Melting point: 321 °C

Boiling point: 767 °C

Van der Waals radius: 158 pm

Ionic radius: 144pm

Isotopes: 8 naturally occurring isotopes

Most characteristic isotope: 48Cd 

Electronic shell: [Kr] 4d10 5s2

The energy of the first ionization: 866 kJ.mol -1

The energy of the second ionization: 1622 kJ.mol -1

Discovery date: In 1817, by Friedrich Stromeyer, Karl Samuel Leberecht and Johann Christoph Heinrich Roloff

With the periodic table symbol Cd, atomic number 49, atomic mass of 112.41 g.mol -1, and electronic configuration [Kr] 4d10 5s2, cadmium is soft, ductile, malleable, burns to redness when exposed to heat, and has a deep yellow vapor.

It reaches its boiling point at 767 °C, while the melting point is achieved at 321 °C, which is lower than the transition metals arranged in the groups from 3 through 11 in the periodic table.

This member of the transition metals family of elements in the periodic table has an electronegativity of 1.69 according to Pauling, whereas the atomic radius according to van der Waals is 158 pm. 

With oxidation states of +1 and +2, cadmium undergoes tarnishing as a result of its exposure to air (especially to oxygen – O2). It’s dissolved in acids, but not in alkalis.

When cadmium is dissolved by hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, or sulfuric acid, the resulting compounds are cadmium chloride (CdCl2), cadmium nitrate (Cd(NO3)2), and cadmium sulfate (CdSO4), respectively.  In addition, this transition metal has strong anti-corrosive properties.                           

How Was Cadmium Discovered?

In the 17th century, zinc oxide was often used for the treatment of various skin conditions. In 1817, the German physician and a professor at the University of Göttingen, Friedrich Stromeyer (2 August 1776 – 18 August 1835), was asked by the government to inspect the Hildesheim pharmacies suspected of selling zinc carbonate instead of zinc oxide.

So, Stromeyer attempted an experiment by heating zinc carbonate taken from the pharmacies in an effort to prove the impurity of the substance sold by the pharmacies in this German town. He was expecting the white carbonate to turn into a white oxide, but instead, it ended up being yellow. 

Since he could not trace any other elements that would give this color to the resulting oxide (such as lead or iron), this German chemist continued researching which led him to the place where the local pharmacies were obtaining the chemical substance, but he didn’t get any information that would clarify his scientific dilemma.

This led him to another experimental attempt when he reduced the elemental form of cadmium as the new, yellow-tinting substance of the analyzed zinc oxide rising from the yellow vapor from the soot and zinc oxide mixture. This turned out to be a completely new chemical element, and that’s how he discovered the elemental form of cadmium. 

The same year, two other scientists, the German chemist Karl Samuel Leberecht (1765 – 1846) Hermann and the German physicist and apothecary Johann Christoph Heinrich Roloff (1783 – 1825), also succeeded in isolating cadmium in its elemental form, but Friedrich Stromeyer was accepted in the scientific world as the first discoverer of this member of the transition metals family of chemical elements. 

How Did Cadmium Get Its Name?

“Kadmeia” is the Greek word used as a reference to zinc oxide. It was used to label the chemical element with an atomic number of 48 (Cd) due to the fact that cadmium is mainly obtained by heating zinc ores (Zn). 

Where Can You Find Cadmium?

This chemical element is rarely found in Earth’s crust but is nonetheless widely distributed in nature. Cadmium occurs as a by-product of zinc ores, among which zinc blende (or sphalerite) is the main cadmium smelting ore. Greenockite (CdS) is the only crystal form of cadmium consisting of cadmium sulfide. 

It also occurs in some lead ores and in a small number of minerals, combined with oxygen, chlorine, or sulfur. China, Kazakhstan, Japan, Canada, and South Korea comprise the group of the world’s leading countries in cadmium production. In the United States, cadmium is mostly obtained as a by-product of zinc, lead, or copper. Mineral deposits of this chemical element are found in Washington, Utah, Missouri, Colorado, and Illinois. 

Some foods, such as oil-seeds, shellfish, fish, and leafy vegetables, also contain low-levels of cadmium. 

Cadmium in Everyday Life

Despite being a rare metal, cadmium is widely used in everyday life for producing rechargeable batteries (more specifically, the rechargeable Ni-Cd batteries), solar cells, UV lamps, TV tubes (both black and white, and in color), bearings, in cadmium stabilizers, cadmium telluride solar panels, etc. 

Furthermore, due to its strong anti-corrosive properties, cadmium is used as an electroplating agent in the making of airplanes and all other vehicles and machines that can be damaged by corrosion. By electroplating cadmium onto alloys containing iron, steel, brass, or copper, this substance serves as protection from corrosion. 

The control rods made of cadmium often find their use in the work of nuclear reactors due to their ability to absorb neutrons. Cadmium salts are applied in the production of pigments, where cadmium selenide (also known as cadmium red) produces a red pigment, while cadmium sulfide produces a yellow pigment.    

How Dangerous Is Cadmium?

This chemical element belongs to the category of toxic metals. Due to its high toxicity and adverse health effects, cadmium is less and less applied in everyday life. The general population is exposed to cadmium mainly through cigarette smoke, food containing cadmium, soldering, welding, etc.

This toxic metal has been labeled by the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Human Services National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease registry as a human carcinogen. 

Namely, cadmium exposure can have adverse health effects on multiple systems of the body, such as the gastrointestinal system, the reproductive system, the immune system, the nervous system, the respiratory system, the urinary system, and the kidneys.

Basically, the long-term exposure to high levels of this substance classified as a human carcinogen may result in kidney diseases leading to permanent kidney damage, lung cancer, etc. 

Cadmium Poisoning 

The inhalation of cadmium vapor or dust is especially toxic. Cadmium poisoning can occur after consuming contaminated food, drinking water, or inhaling air contaminated with high levels of this heavy metal.

By accumulating in the kidneys, this toxic substance impairs our biological mechanism that filters the waste products of the body and regulates both the production of red blood cells and hormones.  

What Are the Risk Factors of Cadmium Poisoning?

Exposure to even low levels of cadmium concentration can lead to adverse effects on human health, which can develop into cancer and have a fatal outcome. The risk factors that trigger these adverse health effects include:

  • Smoking (even non-smokers that are exposed to cigarette smoke risk cadmium poisoning or even lung cancer after prolonged exposure);
  • Working or living near a production factory of cadmium batteries or pigments.

What Are the Symptoms of Cadmium Poisoning? 

The symptoms of cadmium poisoning include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems (such as vomiting and nausea);
  • Diarrhea;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Kidney problems accompanied by pain;
  • Fragile and brittle bones;
  • Fatigue and weakness of the body;
  • Fever;
  • Headache;
  • Muscle pains;
  • Lung problems;
  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Pain in the bones;
  • Lung cancer. 

Acute Tubular Necrosis (Renal Tubular Damage)

Acute tubular necrosis (ATN) or renal tubular damage is caused by a hazardous substance, such as cadmium. When cadmium is absorbed in the bloodstream, it cuts off the delivery of oxygenated blood and nutrition to the kidneys.

The particles of this toxic substance also damage the kidney’s tissue, ultimately resulting in acute kidney failure by triggering necrosis of the kidney’s structures –  the renal tubules. Without sufficient supply of oxygen, the neuron cells of the renal tubules break down and the renal tubules suffer irreparable damage and loss of their function. 

What Are the Symptoms of Acute Tubular Necrosis? 

The following are the most common symptoms that signal acute tubular necrosis, or renal tubular damage:

  • Swelling of some parts of the body;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Inability to urinate;
  • A taste of metal in the mouth;
  • Pain in the stomach;
  • Seizures and confusion. 

The Health Risks of Cadmium in Cigarette Smoke

This toxic heavy metal is also found in tobacco, which reaffirms the adverse health effects of both cadmium and smoking. Cigarette smoke may contain approximately one microgram of cadmium, but it has nonetheless extremely adverse effects upon the health.

Since cigarette smoke enters the bodily systems via the lungs, half of the inhaled cadmium particles also enter the bloodstream that further damage other tissues and organs in the body. 

Environmental Effects of Cadmium

Naturally present in low levels, cadmium levels in our environment are increased by human activities. The environmental pollution caused by cadmium is usually a result of the combustion of fossil fuels creating cadmium emissions in the air, forest fires, volcano fumes, cadmium producing factories, disposal of nickel-cadmium batteries, and disposal of electronic and electrical waste, thus affecting both the health of the general population living in the contaminated area, as well as the environmental health. Improper waste disposal and tobacco smoke containing cadmium also contribute to air pollution. 

The toxic cadmium levels that exceed the cadmium concentration in waters, air, soil, or food, are regulated by the federal agencies dealing with environmental health and environmental protection, such as EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For more information, please refer to the ATSDR.

The Cadmium Cycle in the Environment

According to a study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the cadmium cycle in the environment, cadmium has no degradable property. Hence, it continues to circulate and contaminate the soil, air, and waters after it’s been released into the environment. 

Volcanoes, sea spray, and forest fires are the largest sources of cadmium-based air contamination. The weathering of rocks also contributes to the quantities of this heavy metal released into the environment. Due to its water-soluble property, cadmium is mainly accumulated in the soil from which the plants absorb it easily.

This is the reason why the largest exposure to the toxicity of this chemical element in humans comes from food, i.e the agricultural products. 

Way to Reduce Cadmium Levels in the Environment

The occupational and environmental exposure to toxic levels of cadmium can be reduced by:

  • Recycling of electronic and electrical waste (especially the nickel-cadmium batteries);
  • Minimization of cadmium emissions during the mining of this transition metal;
  • Avoiding the application of cadmium in the products we use every day, such as plastic items, toys, batteries, jewelry;
  • Avoiding smoking;
  • Campaigning against smoking in order to raise awareness of the health and environmental hazards of cadmium and to protect the health of individuals, public health, as well as environmental health. 

Isotopes of Cadmium

Out of the eight naturally occurring cadmium isotopes, two isotopes of this chemical element are radioisotopes (113Cd with a half-life of 7.7×1015 years, and 116Cd with a half-life of 2.9×1019). 110Cd, 111Cd, and 112Cd are considered to be stable cadmium isotopes, while the 109Cd has the longest half-life of 462.6 days. 


[n 1]

Z N Isotopic mass (Da)

[n 2][n 3]


[n 4]



[n 5]



[n 6][n 7]

Spin and


[n 8][n 9]

Natural abundance (mole fraction)
Excitation energy[n 9] Normal proportion Range of variation
95Cd 48 47 94.94987(64)# 5# ms 9/2+#
96Cd 48 48 95.93977(54)# 1# s β+ 96Ag 0+
97Cd 48 49 96.93494(43)# 2.8(6) s β+ (>99.9%) 97Ag 9/2+#
β+, p (<.1%) 96Pd
98Cd 48 50 97.92740(8) 9.2(3) s β+ (99.975%) 98Ag 0+
β+, p (.025%) 97Ag
98mCd 2427.5(6) keV 190(20) ns 8+#
99Cd 48 51 98.92501(22)# 16(3) s β+ (99.78%) 99Ag (5/2+)
β+, p (.21%) 98Pd
β+, α (10−4%) 94Rh
100Cd 48 52 99.92029(10) 49.1(5) s β+ 100Ag 0+
101Cd 48 53 100.91868(16) 1.36(5) min β+ 101Ag (5/2+)
102Cd 48 54 101.91446(3) 5.5(5) min β+ 102Ag 0+
103Cd 48 55 102.913419(17) 7.3(1) min β+ 103Ag 5/2+
104Cd 48 56 103.909849(10) 57.7(10) min β+ 104Ag 0+
105Cd 48 57 104.909468(12) 55.5(4) min β+ 105Ag 5/2+
106Cd 48 58 105.906459(6) Observationally Stable[n 10] 0+ 0.0125(6)
107Cd 48 59 106.906618(6) 6.50(2) h β+ 107mAg 5/2+
108Cd 48 60 107.904184(6) Observationally Stable[n 11] 0+ 0.0089(3)
109Cd 48 61 108.904982(4) 461.4(12) d EC 109Ag 5/2+
109m1Cd 59.6(4) keV 12(2) µs 1/2+
109m2Cd 463.0(5) keV 10.9(5) µs 11/2
110Cd 48 62 109.9030021(29) Stable 0+ 0.1249(18)
111Cd[n 12] 48 63 110.9041781(29) Stable 1/2+ 0.1280(12)
111mCd 396.214(21) keV 48.50(9) min IT 111Cd 11/2−
112Cd[n 12] 48 64 111.9027578(29) Stable 0+ 0.2413(21)
113Cd[n 12][n 13] 48 65 112.9044017(29) 8.04(5)×1015 y β 113In 1/2+ 0.1222(12)
113mCd[n 12] 263.54(3) keV 14.1(5) y β (99.86%) 113In 11/2−
IT (.139%) 113Cd
114Cd[n 12] 48 66 113.9033585(29) Observationally Stable[n 14] 0+ 0.2873(42)
115Cd[n 12] 48 67 114.9054310(29) 53.46(5) h β 115mIn 1/2+
115mCd 181.0(5) keV 44.56(24) d β 115mIn (11/2)−
116Cd[n 12][n 13] 48 68 115.904756(3) 2.8(2)×1019 y ββ 116Sn 0+ 0.0749(18)
117Cd 48 69 116.907219(4) 2.49(4) h β 117mIn 1/2+
117mCd 136.4(2) keV 3.36(5) h β 117mIn (11/2)−
118Cd 48 70 117.906915(22) 50.3(2) min β 118In 0+
119Cd 48 71 118.90992(9) 2.69(2) min β 119mIn (3/2+)
119mCd 146.54(11) keV 2.20(2) min β 119mIn (11/2−)#
120Cd 48 72 119.90985(2) 50.80(21) s β 120In 0+
121Cd 48 73 120.91298(9) 13.5(3) s β 121mIn (3/2+)
121mCd 214.86(15) keV 8.3(8) s β 121mIn (11/2−)
122Cd 48 74 121.91333(5) 5.24(3) s β 122In 0+
123Cd 48 75 122.91700(4) 2.10(2) s β 123mIn (3/2)+
123mCd 316.52(23) keV 1.82(3) s β 123In (11/2−)
IT 123Cd
124Cd 48 76 123.91765(7) 1.25(2) s β 124In 0+
125Cd 48 77 124.92125(7) 0.65(2) s β 125mIn (3/2+)#
125mCd 50(70) keV 570(90) ms β 125In 11/2−#
126Cd 48 78 125.92235(6) 0.515(17) s β 126In 0+
127Cd 48 79 126.92644(8) 0.37(7) s β 127mIn (3/2+)
128Cd 48 80 127.92776(32) 0.28(4) s β 128In 0+
129Cd 48 81 128.93215(32)# 242(8) ms β (>99.9%) 129In 3/2+#
IT (<.1%) 129Cd
129mCd 0(200)# keV 104(6) ms 11/2−#
130Cd 48 82 129.9339(3) 162(7) ms β (96%) 130In 0+
β, n (4%) 129In
131Cd 48 83 130.94067(32)# 68(3) ms 7/2−#
132Cd 48 84 131.94555(54)# 97(10) ms 0+

Source: Wikipedia

List of Cadmium Compounds

Despite being relatively chemically unreactive, cadmium forms a number of nitrides, sulfides, selenides, tellurides, hydrides, chlorides, ionides, and oxides. 

Cadmium forms oxides in the presence of air, such as cadmium oxide (CdO). The halogen elements fluorine, iodine, and bromine, take part in the cadmium compounds/molecules as CdF2, CdI2, and CdBr2.

  • Cadmium acetate
  • Cadmium arsenide
  • Cadmium bromide
  • Cadmium chloride
  • Cadmium chromate
  • Cadmium cyanide
  • Cadmium fluoride
  • Cadmium hydride
  • Cadmium hydroxide
  • Cadmium iodide
  • Cadmium nitrate
  • Cadmium oxide
  • Cadmium pigments
  • Cadmium selenide
  • Cadmium stearate
  • Cadmium sulfate
  • Cadmium sulfide
  • Cadmium telluride
  • Cadmium tetrafluoroborate
  • Cadmium tungstate
  • Cadmium zinc telluride
  • Cadmium(I) tetrachloroaluminate
  • Caesium cadmium bromide
  • Caesium cadmium chloride
  • Dimethylcadmium
  • Mercury cadmium telluride
  • Organocadmium compound
  • Cadmium phosphide
  • Sulfoselenide
  • Zinc cadmium phosphide arsenide
  • Zinc cadmium sulfide

5 Interesting Facts and Explanations

  1. Tarnishing is the loss of the metallic shine of a metallic compound after being exposed to air. 
  2. The mass cadmium poisoning that occurred in Japan in 1912 was labeled as the “Itai-itai disease”, meaning ‘severe pains’ in Japanese. As a result of this man-made disease triggered by environmental pollution, the general population of the Toyama Prefecture suffered severe pains in the joints and spine due to the release of this heavy metal into the environment by the mining companies. 
  3. Heavy metal contamination of the environment from the landfills of cadmium-nickel batteries and products containing cadmium occurred in the Xinxiang municipality of China. The environmental protection agencies refer to this large-scale pollution as one of the furthest spread pollutions, since it also polluted the crops which, in turn, contributed to a widespread cadmium hazard due to the food chain being affected. 
  4. Breathing in cigarette smoke can be as toxic as exposure to cadmium in any other form.
  5. The non-smokers that are exposed to cigarette smoke are labeled as ‘passive (secondhand) smokers’ because they breathe in the same toxic tobacco smoke as the smokers. 

Chemical Property and physical property of element Cadmium

Symbol of Cadmium: Cd
Name: Cadmium
Atomic Number of Cadmium: 48
Atomic Mass of Cadmium: 112.411
Uses of Cadmium: Used in nickel-cadmium batteries. Also in electroplating steel and in the manufacture of berings. Its compounds are found in paint pigments and a wide variety of intense colors. Boiling cadmium gives off a weird, yellow-colored vapor that is poisonous.
Description of Cadmium: Rare, very soft, silver-white metal
Melting Point of Cadmium:
Boiling Point of Cadmium:
Group of Cadmium: Metal
Shells of Cadmium: 2,8,18,18,2
Orbitals of Cadmium: [Kr] 4d10 5s2
Valence of Cadmium: 2
Crystal Structure of Cadmium: Hexagonal
Electro Negativity of Cadmium: 1.69
Covalent Radius of Cadmium: 1.48 Å
Ionic Radius of Cadmium: .95 (+2) Å
Atomic Radius of Cadmium: 1.71 Å
Atomic Volume of Cadmium: 13.1 cm³/mol
Name Origin of Cadmium: Greek: kadmeia (ancient name for calamine (zinc oxide)).
Discovered of Cadmium By: Fredrich Stromeyer
Year: 1817
Location: Germany
Pronounced of Cadmium: KAD-me-em
Oxydation States of Cadmium: 2
Density of Cadmium: 8.65 g/cm³