Friday, June 4, 2010

Newsworthy: Cadmium

What is cadmium?
A soft, bluish white mettalic element which is relatively abundant in nature. It forms a minor componet of zinc ores and is a byproduct of zinc production.

Why is it in the news?
McDonalds, the fast-food giant, has had to recall 12 million Shrek drinking glasses in the US "out of an abundance of caution" after slightly elevated levels of cadmium were found on the painted designs.

What's the problem with cadmium?
Acute exposure to cadmium fumes can cause flu-like symptoms referred to as "the cadmium blues". More sever exposure can cause breathing difficulties and kidney problems which can be fatal.

When was cadmium discovered?
The element was discovered in Germany in 1817 by Friedrich Stromeyer. By 1927, the International Conference on Weights and Measures had redifined the metre in terms of a "red cadmium spectral line (1 metre = 1,553,164.13 wavelengths). This definition has since been changed.

What's it used for?
In the mid-twentieth century, cadmium was produced and used abundantly as an anti-corrosion treatment for steel, a stabilising agent of plastics and as a source of red and yellow pigments. Since the 1980's its use has decreased dramatically in line with health and safety legislation.


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