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Environmental exposure to cadmium—a risk for health of the general population in industrialized countries and preventive strategies


Cadmium (Cd) is a heavy metal belonging to the group of the main chemical pollutants of the natural and occupational environment in economically developed countries. The forecasts indicate that contamination of the environment with this toxic metal, and thus the exposure of the general population, will increase. Food (particularly plant products) is the main source of the general population exposure to this element. Moreover, an important, and often the main, source of intoxication with Cd is habitual tobacco smoking. Recent epidemiological studies have provided numerous evidence that even low-level environmental exposure to this toxic metal, nowadays occurring in numerous economically developed countries, creates a risk for health of the general population. The low-level lifetime exposure to this metal may lead to the damage to the kidneys, liver, skeletal system, and cardiovascular system, as well as to the deterioration of the sight and hearing. Moreover, it has been suggested that environmental exposure to this xenobiotic may contribute to the development of cancer of the lung, breast, prostate, pancreas, urinary bladder, and nasopharynx. Taking the above into account, the aim of this review article is to draw more attention to Cd as an environmental risk factor for the health of the general population and the need to undertake preventive actions allowing to reduce the risk of health damage due to a lifetime exposure to this toxic metal.

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Age-related macular degeneration




Bone mineral density








Complexes of cadmium with metallothionein


Confidence interval


Estimated glomerular filtration rate


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


European Food Safety Authority


Geometric mean


Glutathione peroxidase


Geometric standard deviation






Odds ratio




Provisional tolerable monthly intake


Provisional tolerable weekly intake


Retinol binding protein


Reactive oxygen species


Rate ratio


Standard deviation

-SH groups:

Sulfhydryl groups


Soluble receptor activator of nuclear factor-кB ligand


Superoxide dismutase


Tolerable weekly intake


World Health Organization


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Correspondence to Magdalena Mezynska or Malgorzata M. Brzóska.

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Mezynska, M., Brzóska, M.M. Environmental exposure to cadmium—a risk for health of the general population in industrialized countries and preventive strategies. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 3211–3232 (2018).

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  • Biologically active compounds
  • Cadmium
  • Environmental exposure
  • General population
  • Health effects
  • Risk for health
  • Preventive agents
  • Preventive strategies