Spotlight on Cadmium

Cadmium is one of the top toxic chemicals released into Toronto's air and water. Check out TEA's new map tool to find the good and bad news stories about cadmium in our city.

As a child of the 80's, I learned the word cadmium at my mother's kitchen table as I squeezed vibrant Cadmium Yellow paint out of a tube for an art project. It wasn't until I was sitting at a university lab table squeezing chemicals into test tubes, that I realized cadmium was toxic.

You probably have your own story about cadmium because over the years it's been used to colour our world, harden plastics, recharge our batteries and make metals shiny and rust-proof. 

Problem is, cadmium is a known cancer-causing substance that is toxic to humans in very small amounts. It's also linked to kidney damage and birth defects. Cadmium is also harmful to other species, not helped by the fact that it persists in the natural environment and bioaccumulates up the food chain [ChemTRAC]. It ranks as one of the top 8 chemicals of highest concern according to Toronto's Medical Officer of Health.



Scarborough's Highland Creek sewage incinerator is our city's largest source of cadmium air pollution.


But if we look up the sewer pipe at where this cadmium is first being handled, it's mainly the metal industries that are still using this toxic troublemaker.

Check out TEA's interactive Cadmium in Toronto map [bottom of page] for more information on all sources of cadmium in Toronto.

The good news is that cadmium can be replaced with safer alternatives. Instead of Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) rechargeable batteries, you can buy Lithium Ion (Li-ion) ones. Metal finishing industries can use other metals like aluminum and zinc but very few companies have made the shift. One Toronto company, EMI RFI Shield Plating Inc., is the exception! They are one of the few 'green dots' on the map below. 

It may be a surprise to many of us that cadmium is still part of our story, instead of our history. It is still found in consumer products, released into the air we breathe, and dumped into our drinking water source. At TEA, we are committed to getting cadmium out of our economy and our environment. It's time to put the pedal to the (heavy) metal by advocating for cadmium-free solutions. If you agree, please support us!

About the author: Heather Marshall is TEA's Toxics Campaigner. Heather leads TEA's effort to stop the incineration of sewage at the Highland Creek Treatment Plant in Scarborough and she's our advocate for strengthening Toronto's pollution prevention laws to protect our air and water from toxic releases like cadmium.

TEA's Cadmium in Toronto Map