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topic 2632

Handling cadmium plated parts

A discussion started in 1999 but continuing through 2019


Q. We have to (i) machine, (ii) sand blast, or (iii) wire brush some small parts that are already cadmium plated and have a chromate conversion coating on them. What precautions should we take in handling them? I have found MSDS for cadmium but not for the chromate. Also, what is the maximum temperature these parts can handle? (I understand plated parts are baked for hydrogen embrittlement relief prior to chromating since high temperatures destroy the effect of chromate.)

nagi maley
- malvern, Pennsylvania

A. Hi Nagi. Most chromate conversion coatings are proprietary; some are hexavalent and some are trivalent, so you need the MSDS for the particular Alodine (Macdermid), Chromicoat (Chemetall), Iridite (Henkel), or other chromate conversion coating that is being applied.

The rule of thumb is that chromate conversion coating is only good for 140 °F, but this might be exceeded for well-aged coatings, trivalent coatings, or coatings covered by powder coating.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

April 30, 2013

Q. I have been asked by a work colleague if handling cadmium plated fasteners is a Health hazard. This just involves packing items and transferring them to the pallet. They are not knocked or damaged or the plating disturbed in any way.

Steve Fricker
- Willenhall, Walsall, England

April 30, 2013

A. Hi Steve. Quantifying the possible hazards of handling cadmium and chromates (cadmium plated parts are virtually always chromated) is impossible. The entire answer is simply that employees should wear gloves. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

May 2, 2013

thumbs up signThanks for that. I will see that they are doing that. Steve

Steve Fricker
- Walsall, England

Is it Dangerous to Touch a Cadmium Plated Bolt?

May 16, 2016

Q. I can understand that CADMIUM is dangerous if your are in the same room while someone is plating steel with CADMIUM. But my question is: if I see a cadmium-plated bolt, or cadmium plated truck rim, is it dangerous to touch those items ?

user - Santa Clara, California USA

May 2016

Hi Cesar. I doubt that you've ever seen a cadmium plated truck rim, so the first part of my response has to be to question whether you really understand what cadmium plating is, and where you would see it.

But moving on, cadmium is neither "safe", nor is it plutonium; it's relative. Should you touch a cadmium plated bolt (with bare skin)? No. Would I touch it on a $10 bet? Certainly; easiest $10 I can make. Would I sandpaper it? No.

Most cadmium plated bolts -- and most zinc plated bolts as well -- also have hexavalent chromate conversion coatings on them, and hexavalent chromate is another toxin. I think the short answer is you should be wearing gloves if handling them. Good luck.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

September 13, 2016

Q. Our employees do Cad plating, and thus other operators thereafter, handle the Cad-plated parts without gloves. Should we include the employees who touch the Cad-plated parts in the annual blood draw and urine testing for exposure to Cad/Chromium/Lead?

Monica Landry
aerospace - Sun Valley, California, USA

September 2016

A. Hi Monica. I respectfully feel that the assumptions should be challenged, i.e., that those employees should be wearing gloves.

It's 2016 and dentists wear latex or similar gloves, restaurant servers wear them, coin collectors wear them, nurses in hospitals wear them, and many plating shop employees wear them. While my personal opinion is that there isn't much real danger in touching cadmium parts (a generation or two ago muffler shops were burning off cadmium plated hardware, and just a couple of years ago China was exporting children's jewelry to the USA which was up to 70% cadmium), issues like this really shouldn't be considered matters of personal opinion. As a former governor of New Jersey once remarked, "toxic" is a matter of statute, not opinion.

Cadmium is considered a hazardous material, so don't touch it with bare skin as part of regular work duties, end of story.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

April 9, 2019

Q. The military uses many items of cadmium plated forged steel alloy (4140) on the parachute harness. What is done to these items to prevent cadmium poisoning? Thousands of soldiers touch these items without gloves every day.

Ryan McGuire
Military - Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA

April 2019

A. Hi Ryan.

- Time was when cadmium plated muffler hardware was torched off; I don't know if there were ever any studies of muffler shop personnel.
- Time was when refrigerator shelves were cadmium plated; it became an issue when they got old and people used them as barbecue grates.
- Time was when cadmium vs. zinc plated hardware was used completely indiscriminately.
- Not long ago, the consumer product safety commission refused to make a big deal out of solid cadmium jewelry: <-- Warning, ads before and interrupting this presentation :-(

My opinion is that it's probably not truly dangerous to merely touch it now & then, but if something is considered toxic, then touching it repetitively as part of daily work duty is poor practice. We'll have to see in what direction this goes over the years.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
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