Level of cadmium in the environment



Cadmium levels in the environment vary widely. Cadmium emissions to the environment are normally transported continually between the three main environmental compartments, air, water and soils, but a steady state flux is probably achieved and the general levels can reasonably well be established.


Cadmium is a natural element, that is present in the environment as a result of different sources: natural and anthropogenic

Median ambient levels of cadmium in freshwater streams across Europe is 10 ng Cd/L

EU27 average cadmium content of top soil is 0.14 mg Cd/kg of soil


Sources of cadmium to soil and water in the EU

Sources of cadmium to soil

Sources of cadmium to river waters

Cadmium in EU soils is decreasing


Sources of antropogenic cadmium releases to air and water

In 1990, annual cadmium releases in Europe were above 200 t/y.
Over the past decade, Cd release to the environment dropped from 40 to 20 t/y and has become similar to the natural emissions of Cd.

In 2017, non-ferrous metal sector contributed only 4% to total industrial releases.

European cadmium releases dropped by 50% over the past decade

Ref.: E-PRTR database 2019

Total EU Cd release: 24.341kg

Contribution of industrial activities to cadmium releases in the EU.

Ref.: E-PRTR database 2017


Example: Cadmium pollution in river Rhine has dropped to natural background levels

Cadmium into river Rhine. (Ref.: E-PRTR 2014)

DE: 0.32 t/y
NL: 0.02 t/y

Cadmium levels in river Rhine. (Ref.: E-PRTR 2010)

total Cd: <0.1 µg/L
diss. Cd: <0.05 µg/L