Exposure to cadmium: ANSES proposes limit values to better protect consumers and workers

2022-04-21

Cadmium, a substance that is omnipresent in the environment, can pose health risks to humans, who are exposed mainly through food. In order to limit the exposure of the population, it appears essential to control cadmium intakes from agricultural activities, in particular the application of fertilisers, including mineral phosphate fertilisers. Today, ANSES is publishing its expert appraisal work, whose results aim to further protect consumers and workers. To that end, the Agency has established a new health-based guidance value (HBGV) by ingestion and recommends lowering cadmium levels in fertilisers in order to limit accumulation in soils, transfers to plants and ultimately consumer exposure to cadmium through food. ANSES reiterates that some population groups are overexposed to cadmium through food and therefore stresses the need to implement protective measures to reduce cadmium intakes.

Cadmium: a substance to be monitored

Cadmium is a trace metal element that is widespread in the environment in its natural state and as a result of human activity, particularly agriculture and industry. It is readily available for uptake by plants through their roots, by which it enters the food chain.

Cadmium is known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic to reproduction, and prolonged exposure causes kidney damage and bone fragility in humans, particularly from oral exposure via food and drinking water.

The main sources of exposure to cadmium in the general population are food, as well as tobacco for smokers. In 2011, following the second French Total Diet Study (TDS2), ANSES highlighted cases of the HBGV for cadmium being exceeded for some population groups; since this was likely to pose a health risk, it recommended reducing dietary exposure. To that end, the Agency advised acting at the source, in particular by targeting fertilisers, which were partly responsible for the increase in cadmium concentration in soils and ultimately the rise in levels of cadmium in food.

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ANSES, 21-04-22
; https://www.anses.fr/en/content/exposure-cadmium-anses-proposes-limit-values-better-protect-consumers-and-workers