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Cadmium exposure is a big issue in the manufacturing automation arena; so much so, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a new online tool that analyzes biological monitoring results.

Cadmium is a soft, silver-white metal used in metal machining, plastics, ceramics, painting and welding operations, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Exposure may also result from the smelting and refining of metals or from air in industrial plants that manufacture batteries, coatings or plastics.

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Short-term exposure to cadmium can cause weakness, fever, headache, chills, sweating and muscular pain. Chronic cadmium poisoning can cause kidney damage and cancer of the lung or prostate. Cadmium, which about 300,000 U.S. workers end up exposed to every year, can also cause pulmonary emphysema and bone disease.

This new tool, the Cadmium Biological Monitoring Advisor, analyzes biological monitoring results provided by the user. These data, along with a series of answers to questions generated by the cadmium advisor, help determine the biological monitoring and medical surveillance requirements that must be met under the general industry cadmium standard. These requirements include the frequency of additional monitoring and other mandatory components of the employer’s medical surveillance program.

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The cadmium advisor is primarily for experienced medical professionals who assess workers’ cadmium exposure. It also may be useful as an educational tool for workers and members of the general public by providing information on what constitutes overexposure to cadmium and what to do to prevent exposure on the job.

In addition to OSHA’s cadmium standard (29 CFR 1910.1027), the agency also has a separate Cadmium Standard (29 CFR 1926.1127) that protects workers in the construction industry. While the new cadmium advisor may be useful in assisting medical analysis of biological monitoring for construction workers, it does not refer to the applicable provisions of this standard, and should therefore see use primarily in a general industry setting.

The OSHA Cadmium Biological Monitoring Advisor is one of a series of elaws (Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses) developed by DOL to help employers and employees understand federal employment laws and resources.

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