Fact Sheet: Products containing cadmium

Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal. The use of cadmium must be limited as it is a toxic heavy metal. Cadmium is quite easily absorbed by plants and is through the food chain mainly accumulated in the liver and the kidneys in people. In exceptional cases, too much cadmium can lead to kidney failure.


The main rule is that you cannot import, sell or manufacture products in which cadmium has been used as a

  • surface treatment (cadmium plating);
  • colour pigment; or
  • plastics stabiliser.

As cadmium may occur due to impurities, there is an impurity limit. In a test, the products must, as a general rule, not contain more than 0.0075 per cent by weight.

Cadmium for dyeing paint and varnish is completely banned. Impurities in cadmium are prohibited. If the paint or the varnish has a high content of zinc, some cadmium impurity is, however, allowed but the concentrations of cadmium impurities must be as low as possible, and under no circumstances may exceed 0.1 per cent by weight.

There are some exemptions from the ban

There are exemptions from the ban. Some uses of cadmium for surface treatment and as colour pigment are permitted: Cadmium is permitted as a colour pigment, e.g. for ceramic products, dental concrete, artist colours and artwork.

Cadmium may, however, only be included at 0.002 per cent by weight in glaze/decoration colours used by private individuals when manufacturing products used for food (cups, plates, bowls etc.).
In some cases artist colours may be toxic due to the cadmium content - see the fact sheet on sale and storing toxic substances and products

In addition, cadmium is permitted for surface treatment (cadmium plating) of musical instruments and precision apparatuses for optics and hearing aids.

Further exemptions and more details are included in the statutory Order. There are e.g. some other requirements for usage, including that for certain other applications notice must be given to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency.

Note that in addition to the exemptions mentioned, there may be special rules for some product types. Some products, e.g. toys, medical devices, packaging, electrical and electronic equipment - must comply with other rules that also cover limit values for the content/release of cadmium.

Fertiliser with phosphorus

Fertiliser with a phosphorus concentration of 0,1  % or more  is allowed to contain 110 mg cadmium pr. kg phosphorus.
Manufacturers, importers and distributors are responsible
Anyone manufacturing, importing or selling products containing cadmium is responsible for compliance with the rules.

The Environmental Protection Agency's chemical inspectors control compliance with the rules and ensure that illegal situations are brought into compliance. This may involve withdrawing the product from the Danish market, or making the product legal in some other way. Anyone who breaches the rules may additionally be subject to a fine or a prison sentence of up to two years.

New regulation

By the end of 2011 a new regulation will enter into force as the REACH regulation on cadmium will be changed.
The change means that the cadmium concentration allowed in the product categories and uses covered by the Statutory Order, where the concentration limit for cadmium was 0.0075% will increase to a maximum concentration of 0.01% and in the future will be regulated under REACH.

A temporary provision is also introduced about recovered PVC in certain products in the construction industry including, for example profiles, cable ducts and the middle layer of pipes not used for drinking water may contain max. 0.1% of cadmium until 2017 where the provision is to be reassessed. Recovered PVC must be labelled "Contains recovered PVC" or the following pictogram:

For paints and varnishes with a zinc concentration exceeding 10%, the concentration of cadmium in the paint/varnish shall be below 0,1%. For painted/lacquered articles the concentration of cadmium in the paint/varnish must be below 0,1% of the article.

The content of cadmium in metal parts of jewellery must be below 0,01%.

In brazing fillers cadmium is allowed in concentrations below 0,01%.

More information

The rules about cadmium in EU are to be found in enclosure XVII, no 23 in REACH ( Commission regulation (EC) No 552/2009 )

The new EU regulation on cadmium in REACH publiced in the Official Journal of the European Union . (pdf)

Correction to the date where the EU regulation in REACH applies from . (pdf). The correct date is 10 December 2011.

The national rules are described in:

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