Water Talk – Cadmium in drinking water
Health Canada has developed a guideline value for cadmium in drinking water to protect the health of Canadians. Learn about the health effects of cadmium and how to reduce your exposure if it is present in your drinking water.
On this page
- Cadmium in drinking water
- Health effects of cadmium in drinking water
- Guideline value for cadmium in drinking water in Canada
- How to reduce your exposure to cadmium in drinking water
- Removing cadmium from drinking water
- Values in other countries
- More information
- Contact us
Cadmium in drinking water
Cadmium is a metal found naturally in the environment. It can be present in:
- certain products (tobacco, paint, PVC, batteries, jewellery, some pipes and well components)
Exposure to cadmium in drinking water is mostly because of leaching from galvanized steel used in home plumbing, pipes and well parts or components as well as service lines. The only way to know if you have cadmium in your drinking water is to have the water tested.
As lead is also found in galvanized steel materials, you should test for lead at the same time. If you are interested in testing your drinking water for the presence of cadmium (and lead), particularly if you have a private well, you should contact your municipality or local public health authority for advice and assistance with the testing.
Health effects of cadmium in drinking water
Drinking water that contains high levels of cadmium may affect the kidneys and bones.
If you have concerns about your drinking water or health, contact your public drinking water authority or public health authority for more information.
Guideline value for cadmium in drinking water in Canada
Health Canada worked with provinces, territories and other federal departments to set a new guideline value for cadmium in drinking water. A maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) of 0.007 milligrams per litre (mg/L) was established. The guideline value is protective of the health of Canadians, including the most vulnerable members of society, such as infants and children. The Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality set out the basic parameters that every water authority in Canada should strive to achieve in order to provide the cleanest, safest and most reliable drinking water possible.
How to reduce your exposure to cadmium in drinking water
If you have high levels of cadmium in your drinking water, there are effective ways to remove it, as described in the next section. In the meantime, you can reduce your exposure to cadmium (and lead) using a few simple, temporary measures:
- Use only cold tap water for:
- preparing baby formula
- Flush out your plumbing after water has been sitting in the pipes for a
few hours, such as first thing in the morning or when you get home from
work and then let it run for about 1 minute. Clear the pipes by:
- flushing the toilet
- taking a shower
- starting a load of laundry
Cadmium will not enter the body through the skin or by breathing in vapours while showering or bathing. Bathing and showering in water that contains cadmium does not pose a health risk.
If you have concerns about your drinking water or health, contact your public drinking water authority, public health authority or healthcare provider for more information.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or preparing infant formula
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or preparing infant formula and suspect that your drinking water may contain cadmium, you should have it tested. If cadmium levels are above the guideline value, you may wish to:
- find an alternate source of drinking water, or
- install a treatment device to remove cadmium
Removing cadmium from drinking water
There are several options for removing cadmium from drinking water, including water treatment devices, replacing galvanized steel used for service lines, pipes and well parts and components or upgrading these plumbing materials.
Using water treatment devices
There are effective household water treatment devices that are certified to remove cadmium from drinking water at the tap. These include:
- adsorption media
- reverse osmosis
- distillation treatment devices
Filters you use should meet one of the following NSF/ANSI Standards:
- Standard 53 (adsorption)
- Standard 58 (reverse osmosis)
- Standard 62 (distillation)
Make sure that any device you use is:
- certified as meeting the NSF/ANSI International standard for cadmium removal (it will be noted on the box or label)
- installed, maintained and replaced according to the instructions given by the manufacturer
Replacing galvanized steel pipes and components
Replacing the galvanized steel pipes or plumbing components is the most effective, and permanent, way to reduce cadmium from your drinking water. Replace these by upgrading the plumbing materials made of galvanized steel with appropriate materials certified for use in drinking water systems.
Values in other countries
Health Canada has established a maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) of 0.007 mg/L. This value is comparable to limits established by other countries and organizations.
Some examples of the limits for cadmium in drinking water in other jurisdictions include:
- Australia: 0.002 mg/L
- United States: 0.005 mg/L
- World Health Organization: 0.003 mg/L
- European Union: 0.005 mg/L
If you have questions about the guidelines or cadmium in drinking water, contact us:
- 1-833-223-1014 (toll free)
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