Cadmium - towards a rational use of a toxic element
Because of its toxicity, cadmium creates an environmental problem as well as a health hazard for exposed workers. Most cadmium emissions arise from the intentional use of the element. It is therefore mandatory to reduce cadmium consumption to the lowest possible level. Cadmium pigments, mainly used in plastic processing, can be replaced in all applications where the processing temperature does not exceed 300°C. Newly developed polyvinyl chloride stabilizers promise to be an excellent substitute for cadmium stabilizers in even the most demanding applications. Cadmium plating, still extensively used in the United States and the West Germany, has been virtually abandoned in Japan. Improved lead acid batteries are replacing vented nickel cadmium batteries because of their cost effectiveness. While in these applications cadmium use is declining, more and more cadmium is needed for the manufacturing of sealed nickel cadmium batteries. These relatively small electrochemical cells are used mainly by individual consumers. Here cadmium can only be replaced in some marginal applications. The high cadmium content of these batteries (up to 22%) makes them a good candidate for recycling of the heavy metal.