A study, recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives, of over 3,500 U.S. adults looked at the relationship between exposure to lead and cadmium and hearing loss. The participants were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and each was given a hearing exam and their blood was tested for lead and cadmium.
Researchers found that people with higher levels of the metals in their blood also were more prone to hearing loss. One of the unique aspects of the study is the link between even low level exposure to cadmium and lead and hearing loss.
Many people are familiar with the toxic impact lead can have on humans, but far fewer are familiar with exposure to cadmium. Cadmium is a naturally occurring element. Today it is used in some types of batteries as well as in pigments, coatings and platings as a stabilizer for plastics.
Workers in many industries face potential exposure to cadmium. The potential for exposure is perhaps highest among workers in electroplating, metal machining, plastics, ceramics, paint, and welding or soldering operations. Workers may also be exposed to cadmium from the smelting and refining of metals or from air in industrial plants that manufacture batteries, coatings or plastics. Workers involved in landfill operations, the recycling of electronic parts or the recycling of plastics also are at risk for potential exposure. This exposure while on the job could lead to problems hearing.
“Exposure to cadmium that may be dangerous to people’s health can occur in numerous jobs in which workers are exposed to cadmium dust or fumes,” said Franco Seif, President of Clark Seif Clark (CSC), a leading industrial hygiene consulting firm. “Workers can also be exposed by the incidental ingestion of dust from contaminated hands, food or cigarettes. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has estimated that more than 500,000 workers in the United States face exposure to cadmium each year.”