What is Cadmium?
Cadmium is a naturally occurring element in New Mexico's geology. Low levels are in all soils and rocks and can dissolve into groundwater. Cadmium can also be released into the environment from industrial activities such as: mining, smelting, and refining; combustion of fossil fuels; and incineration of municipal waste. Cadmium is also found in cigarette smoke, batteries, inexpensive jewelry and some imported toys, some color pigments used for paints on glassware, ceramic pots, and plastics, some phosphate fertilizers and soil amendments.
Cadmium in Private Wells, New Mexico
Cadmium levels in water samples from private wells vary between New Mexico counties and even within the same county. The groundwater system in New Mexico is very complex. This complexity can lead to cadmium concentration variability even amongst neighboring wells. Therefore, to know the cadmium concentration in your water from your own well, you need to test.
Based on available data, none of the water samples from wells in counties (with greater than 20 samples), appear to exceed this Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Safe Drinking Water standard of 0.005 mg/L.
The information available in this section, including the maps, demonstrates cadmium found in tested private wells in New Mexico based on the data available from various sources.
Cadmium Sources and Health Effects
Food and smoking are the primary sources of cadmium exposure for the general population. Cadmium may be found in foods such as: root vegetables, grains, legumes, shellfish (mussels, oysters, and scallops) and organ meat.
If your water comes from a public water supply, it will regularly be tested for cadmium. If your water comes from a private well the only way to know if there is cadmium in the water is to test it.
Potential health effects
The EPA has determined that lifetime exposure to 0.005 ppm cadmium is not expected to cause any adverse effects.
Breathing in high levels of cadmium can cause severe lung damage while eating or drinking high levels can cause to severe stomach problems, vomiting and diarrhea, Long-term exposure (usually more than 2-5 years) to high amounts of cadmium in food or drinking water may be related to kidney problems and a decrease in bone density. Children may be more sensitive to bone problems related to cadmium exposure.
Reducing Excessive Exposure to Cadmium in Drinking Water
Treatment of water can vary depending on water chemistry. It is important to test your water before choosing a water treatment system. A licensed well contractor or water quality professional may help with choosing the right treatment system for your water chemistry. For additional guidance choosing a treatment system certified to remove cadmium consult with the Water Quality Association or at 630-505-0160 or NSF international (formerly the National Sanitation Foundation) or at 1-800-NSF-MARK (1-800-673-6275).
How to find water quality information for public water systems
If you get your water from a public drinking water system, contact:
- Your community water system by telephone
- Look up your community water system online through the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Drinking Water Watch
- Call the NMED Drinking Water Bureau, TOLL FREE 1-877-654-8720