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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Hazards to Wildlife from Soil-Borne Cadmium Reconsidered


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 29 No. 5, p. 1380-1384
    Received: July 16, 1999

    * Corresponding author(s): Nelson_Beyer@usgs.gov
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  1. W. Nelson Beyer
  1. U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, 12011 Beech Forest Rd., Laurel, MD, 20708-4041.



Cadmium is a toxic element that should be included in environmental risk assessments of contaminated soils. This paper argues, however, that hazards to wildlife from cadmium have often been overstated. The literature contains only meager evidence that wild animals have been seriously harmed by cadmium, even at severely contaminated sites. Although some researchers have reported that wildlife have accumulated concentrations of cadmium in their kidneys that were above suggested injury thresholds, the thresholds may be disputed, since they were well below the World Health Organization criterion of 200 mg/kg (wet weight) of cadmium in the renal cortex for protecting human health. Recent risk assessments have concluded that soil cadmium concentrations less than 1 mg/kg are toxic to soil organisms and wildlife, which implies that background concentrations of cadmium naturally found in soils are hazardous. An examination of the databases used to support these assessments suggested that the toxicity of cadmium has been exaggerated.

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