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Cadmium, simple test for?

Cadmium plating was used for some tools

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Paul Fallert15/12/2011 19:24:29
81 forum posts
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Does anyone know of a simple test for cadmium?
Background: Cadmium was at one time used to plate workshop tools. Cadmium plated tools may be present today in our workshops. Cadmium is very toxic and can be absorbed through the skin or oxides of cadmium can be absorbed through the lungs when heated. Worse, cadmium metal may be found among the scraps. It is best avoided because exposure accumulates in the kidneys and liver. Cadmium has been removed from most silver solder due to this toxicity.
I was reminded of this subject while readying the current MEW where a simple test was offered for the presence of magnesium (a drop of vinegar causes fizzing of magnesium) so it can be avoided when melting aluminum. A bar of cadmium could be mistaken for aluminum.
David Littlewood15/12/2011 19:29:42
533 forum posts
A Google search shows there are test kits available, for example here
Paul Fallert15/12/2011 19:39:29
81 forum posts
3 photos
David: Thank you for the reference to the commercial test kit, but I was hoping for something that might be readily available when (and if) the need arose.
Most of us will not be willing to buy something that we are not sure we will need. The vinegar test for magnesium is ideal because it is inexpensive and readily available when/if needed.
Does anyone know of a simple test that is readily available and inexpensive?
Stub Mandrel15/12/2011 20:59:29
4307 forum posts
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Cadmium plated stuff should be easy to spot because of it's dull blue-grey mealy appearance. You probably have some old Cd passivated screws in your bits boxes.
I'd be surprised to find a lump of cadmium in my scrap bin though.
Paul Fallert15/12/2011 21:31:32
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I was thinking of finding a lump of cadmium at the scrap metal yard among the aluminum bits.
Swarf, Mostly!15/12/2011 21:51:14
525 forum posts
43 photos
Hi there, all,
I haven't personally encountered cadmium plated workshop tools (that's not a denial that they exist).
However, when I started in the electronics industry 'cadmium plate & passivate' was a standard treatment for the equipment chassis, panels and brackets made from mild steel as well as fastenings and spacing pillars. I remember it as being a light greenish-yellow colour rather than blue-grey. Maybe the final colour was dependent on the passivation dip?
I seem to remember also encountering it on the soft iron parts of relays and contactors.
When it corrodes in damp conditions, it can form a white powdery coating - contact with this would pose a risk of assimilation. (Now wash your hands, please!)
The plating shop used to use anodes comprising a metal basket into which they loaded spherical lumps of cadmium metal, about the size of a tennis ball. I have seen one of those lumps offered for sale on eBay.
Cadmium plating has been phased out and replaced by bright zinc plating (aka 'BZP'). However, as Neil has written, I guess many of us will have lots of Cd plated fastenings in our 'come in handy' boxes or racks of 2 oz. tobacco tins.
Best regards,
Swarf, mostly.
Paul Fallert15/12/2011 21:51:34
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A worker using an oxyacetylene torch and silver solder containing cadmium was overcome with acute pneumonia and died 5 days later. (Lucas: 1980)
Les Jones 115/12/2011 21:58:00
2120 forum posts
146 photos
Hi Paul,
You will not confuse a lump cadmium with a lump of aluminium.
The density of cadmium is 8.65 g/cc The density of aluminium is 2.7 g/cc It would weigh over three times the weight of a piece of aluminium of the same size. I also think it very unlikely you would find a solid lump of cadmium.
Engine Builder15/12/2011 21:58:47
223 forum posts
When I was at school in the 60s we did cadmium plating in the metalwork class!
I recall there was a large tank of liquid involved I think cyanide was used. The metalwork teacher showed us a bottle of some thick liquid that was kept above it and we had instruction to drink it if we fell in or something!
How times have changed.
Charlie,15/12/2011 22:27:18
76 forum posts
1 photos

Dont they still use large lumps of cadmium as anodes to prohibit rust on steel hulls
of ships ?
Ian S C16/12/2011 01:29:56
7468 forum posts
230 photos
Charlie, that would work, but the metal used is normally zinc, aluminium is also used at a fraction of the cost of cadmium. Ian S C
Springbok16/12/2011 03:19:50
879 forum posts
34 photos
Sacrificial anodes a usualy zinc and are welded to the hull this causes the electrical charge that is around the hull to be attracted to the anode and not erode the hull.
These can be purchased in any ships chandelers. they are also used on fibreglass hulls to prevent osmosis.
David that school lab sounds a bit hairy....
The only cadmium that I have been aware of in the workshop is silver solder and that is being phased out (I believe this month) and it will be illegal to sell it. Check the Cup Alloys site. the consequence being there has to be a higher content of silver and more expensive rods.
Clive Hartland16/12/2011 08:04:13
2550 forum posts
40 photos
I spent 6 months in a plating shop as part of my army apprenticeship.
cadmium plating is now not used commercially but is still used on aircraft components.
The passivation will turn it a goldy yellow colour.
Mainly we plated the links and hammer bars on Creed Teleprinters with it.
It has a pleasant colour to look at but as said it is deadly over time.
Ian S C16/12/2011 09:10:47
7468 forum posts
230 photos
Just mislayed it at the moment, but I have a hand book for teachers, NZ education, from the 1960s, and Cadmium plating was one, along with copper and nickel, the only worry in the book was the hazard of acid, and cyanide. The kids were tougher in those days..perhaps.
Ian S C
KWIL16/12/2011 10:58:03
3205 forum posts
63 photos
Whilst I agree cadmium is a largely undesireable material, I fear we have been talked into a rather fanatical approach to the subject. Same goes for so called long life efficient lamps, they really contain some nasties and nobody says a thing about it.
A worked died at Lucas in 1980, cadmium related? Many, many more die and continue to die from drink, but they have not banned alchohol !!!!
Clive Hartland16/12/2011 14:25:21
2550 forum posts
40 photos
The way chemicals get into the human system and the effects apart from death are interesting.
When I was in kenya we often visited the taxidermist works, the name was Zimmermans.
A nicer chap you have never met, he took a shine to my wife and took us around to see the processes being carried out and also gave my wife a piece of Leopard fur to keep.
While talking he said that the cyanide had got into his system and showed us his hair which had turned green!
He had been exposed to it for years. He said if a snake bit him it would die first.
The store shed reeked of strong chemical and I could not go in without choking and coughing.
magpie16/12/2011 17:26:43
449 forum posts
80 photos
When i was an apprentice in Rolls Royce ( car Div. ), all the nuts & bolts Etc. were cadmium plated, and came with a thick coating of grease. I often had to go and degrease these in a large Tric tank, i remember being high as a kite after 10 mins doing that. Still here at age 71 so not too much damage !!!!!!! I think !!!!!
Cheers Derek
Alex gibson16/12/2011 18:37:15
35 forum posts
I don't think we should be too worried about cadmium poisoning. Let's face it, most of us don't buy green bananas these days.
Hugh Gilhespie16/12/2011 20:51:23
130 forum posts
45 photos
To answer Paul's question. Test, yes, simple -no. Details here.
Regards, Hugh
peter walton17/12/2011 09:57:42
82 forum posts
Just been trawling the web for any answers to this question and stumbled on something I had never thought of.

It would appear that Cadmium is sometimes added to Gold to make jewellry which could answer something that has had me puzzled for some time, in that some people are allergic to Gold jewellry which I always thought was non toxic.

As to the OP question , I dont think there is a simple test for Cd.


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