SHANGHAI: Scientists and officials here are calling for enhanced methods of screening for the industrial metal cadmium, to better monitor the effects of the carcinogenic material on the general population.
"All soils and rocks, including coal and mineral fertilizers, have some cadmium in them. Not surprisingly, people involved in these industries are exposed to cadmium. But the general population may also be at risk due to some environmental factors," Yu Huizhu, an official with the Shanghai municipal center for disease control and prevention, said.
The metal is used largely in manufacturing batteries and in pigments for plastic products.
Cadmium poisoning is generally considered an occupational hazard, which can damage the kidneys. Several incidents have been reported in the past few years.
Last year, more than 100 women factory workers in southern China sued their former employers over suspected cadmium poisoning. The women worked in two battery factories in Guangdong Province.
Three women later died as a result of the poisoning and several others fell ill.
A recent study by the public health school of Fudan University shows a method using the antibody metallothionein helps detect and monitor cadmium-induced damage.
However, there is a small group of people who produce less metallothionein after exposure to cadmium, due to genetic factors. These people are therefore more susceptible to cadmium poisoning, the study said.
The report suggested focusing on this susceptible group to protect them from possible poisoning.
The study used the metallothionein antibody as a biomarker and successfully screened more than 800 people exposed to cadmium in the general environment and more than 100 people exposed to the metal because of their occupations.