NIOSH Finds Cadmium Overexposures at Aircraft Equipment Depot

Published August 9, 2017

​A new NIOSH report describes the results of the agency’s evaluation of employee exposures to cadmium at an aircraft equipment depot, where workers inspected, repaired, maintained, and decommissioned wing aerial refueling pods (WARPs), which contain cadmium-plated components. According to the report authors, these components corrode over time, and the level of corrosion can range from light surface corrosion to deep pitting and scaling. NIOSH staff found that employees whose work involved removing corroded cadmium-plated parts were exposed to cadmium above OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 5 μg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA. Other employees performing tasks that warranted little to no interaction with the corroded cadmium-plated parts had personal exposures to airborne cadmium that were below OSHA limits or not detectable. However, the agency’s report notes that cadmium was detected on all surface wipe samples collected during the evaluation, including both production and nonproduction surfaces in the kitchenette area, and inside respirators. According to the authors, this suggests a potential dermal and ingestion risk to cadmium.

To help reduce employees’ exposures to cadmium, NIOSH recommends using a vacuum with a high efficiency particulate filter followed by wet wiping to clean particulate and corrosion inside WARPs, work surfaces, and tools before maintenance. The agency urges employees to follow the same process before leaving the work area when working with cadmium-plated components. The employer should also train employees about cadmium hazards, and ensure that respirators are properly worn, cleaned, and stored.

Further details about the evaluation are available in NIOSH’s full report (PDF).