Lead is a heavy metal that is toxic at very low exposure levels and has acute and chronic effects on human health. It is a multi-organ system toxicant that can cause neurological, cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, haematological and reproductive effects.
Cadmium is a non-essential and toxic element for humans mainly affecting kidneys and the skeleton. It is also a carcinogen by inhalation. Cadmium is accumulated in bone and may serve as a source of exposure later in life.
In the environment, lead and cadmium are toxic to plants, animals and micro-organisms.
Lead and Cadmium are metals that are mainly transported over local, national or regional distances. The export of new and used products containing lead and cadmium, remains a challenge for developing countries and countries with economies in transition which lack the capacity to manage and dispose of the substances in products in an environmentally sound manner.
UNEP has been working to address lead and cadmium issues since 2003.
UNEP's priorities for action in connection with Lead and Cadmium