Cadmium Green Technologies…VW May Have To Recall 124,000 E-Cars Due To Cadmium Contamination

It appears that green technologies may leave future generations with a heap of toxic waste.

Recently Spiegel here and other German media outlets reported on how VW may be required to recall 124,000 electric cars.

The reason for the potential recall is that the charging unit contains traces of cadmium, a heavy metal element that can be dangerous if humans are exposed to even lower levels over a long period.

Apparently one supplier failed to label that the product that contained the toxic heavy element and did not report it in the material specs. According to Spiegel, VW found 0.008 grams per charging unit in electric and hybrid vehicles produced between 2013 and 2018 in the brands of VW, Audi and Porsche.

Volkswagen claims that there is no risk to consumers because the cadmium containing part is fully enclosed inside a housing and so consumers cannot come into contact with the toxic metal.

However the cadmium content means that the vehicle violates the after-life recycling standards that is imposed on automobiles in Europe.

Green technologies contain toxic cadmium

Not only VW’s electric cars may have a problem with toxic metals, but so do thin-film solar panels.

One recent paper led by Ramos-Ruiz (2017) examined the leaching of cadmium and tellurium from cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar panels under simulated landfill conditions.

According to the paper’s abstract:

Low levels of Cd and Te were solubilized in both batch leaching tests (<8.2% and <3.6% of added Cd and Te, respectively). On the other hand, over the course of 30 days, 73% of the Cd and 21% of the Te were released to the synthetic leachate of a continuous-flow column simulating the acidic landfill phase. The dissolved Cd concentration was 3.24-fold higher than the TCLP limit (1 mg L-1), and 650-fold higher than the maximum contaminant level established by the US-EPA for this metal in drinking water (0.005 mg L-1). In contrast, the release of Cd and Te to the effluent of the continuous-flow column simulating the methanogenic phase of a landfill was negligible.”

Toxic cells not properly disposed of in many countries

Ramos-Ruiz et al remind that due to the presence of hazardous substances like Cd and lead (Pb) in PV technology, solar PV panels have been included in the European Union Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive and that many other countries have not yet introduced regulations to prevent the disposal of CdTe solar cells in MSW landfills despite the potential risks posed by PV technology.

This means don’t expect proper disposal in developing countries, especially Africa and Asia.

In the summary, the authors write:

The evidence found in this work indicates that the standardized TCLP and WET leaching tests might underestimate the leaching of Cd and Te from disposing decommissioned CdTe solar panels in landfills.

20 responses to “Cadmium Green Technologies…VW May Have To Recall 124,000 E-Cars Due To Cadmium Contamination”

  1. Steve

    Is that Cadmium Red or Cadmium Yellow?

    It could be mixed and get Orange which of course the Greenies would be over the moon about.

  2. roger

    I seem to remember that in the 1950s and employed as an engineering buyer, I arranged for many thousands of steel components large and small to be cadmium plated as per specification on technical drawings every week for years.
    Not so toxic then.
    Must be due to brexit?

    1. spike55

      Interesting pdf re cadmium, from an aircraft perspective

      1. roger

        Thanks for that Spike very interesting.

  3. Don from Oz

    My comment too Roger
    From my 1st year college chemistry book (printed 1962) – Obtained as a by product in Lead and Zinc smelting plants.
    Uses (1) As a protective coating for steel.
    (2) In making bearing metals
    (3) For low melting point alloys
    (4) In atomic piles.
    How many times have we been exposed to this metal without any apparent ill effect?

    1. spike55

      Actually Don, from my reading and studies, cadmium is/was only used in fairly high cost “specialised” situations, where mere mortals like us probably would rarely come into contact.

      Someone may want to correct me on that, been a while since I was looking at that sort of area.

    2. Yonason


      Don’t forget welding. And Cd isn’t the only metal to worry about.

      So, it’s in lots of metallic structures. But, if you don’t inhale or ingest it (i.e., you aren’t a careless welder), what’s in or on the metal is not going to hurt you.

      Also, we’re surrounded by naturally occurring heavy metals in the environment. That little bit in your electric car’s charger isn’t going to come close to what you’ll eat over a lifetime, especially if you’re a vegetarian.

      And back to cars, why are chargers the problem, and brake linings aren’t?

  4. John F. Hultquist

    The issue with Cadmium was first suspected in 1955 and made known in 1961.
    See Itai-itai disease

    The book “The Disappearing Spoon” by Sam Kean deals with this and other toxic elements.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    You will be interested in this B-12 issue with respect to vegans and vegetarians.

    1. Yonason

      While I alluded to it above, you inspired me to dig a tad deeper, John.

      Yes, it seems vegans are at higher risk of heavy metal toxicity.

      “…vegetarian are particularly vulnerable to being exposed to the risk of cadmium poisoning because most vegetables and cereal grains naturally contain cadmium derived from the soil.”
      (Whole grains are among the worst offenders!)

      But, not wanting them to suffer needlessly, here’s an article recommends ways to minimize the ill effects of Cadmium, or so they claim.


    2. Yonason

      One more reference, with levels of As, Pb, and Cd per specific food.

      And, for what it’s worth, need I point out that brain damage and violent behavior are often closely linked?

      1. spike55

        “And, for what it’s worth, need I point out that brain damage and violent behavior are often closely linked?”

        You are talking about “progressive” SJWs, democrats, ante-fa, etc, aren’t you. 😉

        1. Yonason

          Sadly, there seems to be an insufficient shortage of volunteers.

        2. Yonason

          How “green” is your green?

          Your energy isn’t green enough, unless it’s VEGAN!

          More proof that a vegan diet correlates with cranial malfunction and a distorted perception of reality, or as the March Hare said…

  5. Video Shows Solar Panels On Roof In Netherlands Burning, Destroying Three Apartments

    […] I wrote here about how toxic cadmium leaching at landfills from old discarded solar panels could pose a serious […]

  6. tom0mason

    You may wish to note that “copper alloy conductor is cadmium copper wire, which is used for railroad electrification in North America.[5] In Britain the BPO (later Post Office Telecommunications) used cadmium copper aerial lines with 1% cadmium for extra strength; for local lines 40 lb/mile (1.3 mm dia) and for toll lines 70 lb/mile (1.7 mm dia).[23]” (from ) Cadmium/copper alloys are often used for relays and HV switch contacts.
    Many, many of these ‘old’ technology components are still in use, and will probably not be replaced until they fail.
    Also of note is that many animals and fish that we consume store cadmium in their internal organs (livers, kidneys, etc.) and are a significant source of dietary cadmium. Also smokers have the larger intake of cadmium as the tobacco plant will take up cadmium from the soils where it is present.

    Cadmium detrimentally affects humans when the dose is high, with damage to the kidneys, bones, nervous system including the brain. See and the links on the right side of the page for more studies.

    1. tom0mason

      Into the soup of toxic material I would also toss Beryllium, for although this is a relatively common element, once refine it can be a serious health hazard.
      Beryllium-copper alloys in the electrical (including semiconductors), construction, and industrial industries. See

      The toxicity of Beryllium is without question, however (and similar to cadmium) when alloyed with other metals it become much safer. Like cadmium, beryllium is very toxic when chemically released (via heating and/or erosion) and entering the food chain.
      The use in the semiconductor industry is usually as Beryllium oxide, a substance used in the form of high-technology ceramics, for it is a very good electrical insulator while being a good heat conductor. However Beryllium oxide is a very toxic compound.
      See for more about it’s uses and toxicity.

  7. Don from OZ

    I should have added that ‘it nonetheless pays to be cautious’.
    Welding is one occupation that needs to be particularly so.
    Past time for manufacturers to ensure that Cd doesn’t get used in solar panels.

  8. doug

    The dangers of Cadmium are not new, I worked with yellow Cadmium coated drums in photocopiers in the late 70’s. Each one was registered with the Canadian government and was required to be returned to the manufacturer for disposal.

  9. Ken Haapala

    Should EPA’s Linear No-Threshold Model be applied in the US? One possible premature death per 100,000 exposed over 70 years?

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