Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA


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Exposure and Controls

Workers can be exposed to cadmium by breathing in dusts, fumes, or mists containing cadmium. Cadmium or cadmium compounds can also get on the skin, contaminate clothing or food, and be ingested (which is also one of the routes of exposure). The most effective way to prevent exposure to a hazardous metal such as cadmium is through elimination or substitution. Substitution with viable, less toxic alternatives to cadmium is available for rechargeable batteries (nickel-metal hydride), plating (zinc, vapor-deposited aluminum), pigments (cerium sulfide), and plastics stabilizers. The hierarchy of controls describes the order that should be followed when choosing among exposure-control options for a hazardous substance. Generally, elimination or substitution is the preferred choice (most protective) at the top of the hierarchy, followed by engineering controls, administrative controls, work-practice controls, and, finally, personal protective equipment. Engineering controls include isolating the source, and using ventilation systems or other engineering controls (torch-cutting extensions) to minimize exposure to cadmium. Administrative actions include limiting the amount of time a worker performs work involving potential exposure to cadmium. PPE includes wearing the proper respiratory protection and clothing.

OSHA's informational booklet on cadmium provides a general overview of cadmium exposure and control. OSHA Publication 3136, (2003).

For additional information regarding controlling exposures to cadmium, see the following OSHA's Safety and Health Topics Pages on:

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health - Workplace Safety & Health Topics - Engineering Controls. This webpage provides information on the hierarchy of controls to prevent occupational exposure to hazardous substances.

OSHA and the National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF) through an alliance agreement teamed up to develop a best practices manual for the surface-finishing industry in 2009. This manual covers the common technologies used to control exposures in the metal surface-finishing industry.

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