Sunlight Promotes Fast Release of Hazardous Cadmium from Widely-Used Commercial Cadmium Pigment
Cadmium pigments are widely used in the polymer and ceramic industry. Their potential environmental risk is under debate, being the major barrier for appropriate regulation. We show that 83.0 ± 0.2% of hazardous cadmium ion (Cd2+) was released from the commercial cadmium sulfoselenide pigment (i.e., cadmium red) in aqueous suspension within 24 h under simulated sunlit conditions. This photodissolution process also generated sub-20 nm pigment nanoparticles. Cd2+ release is attributed to the reactions between photogenerated holes and the pigment lattices. The photodissolution process can be activated by both ultraviolet and visible light in the solar spectrum. Irradiation under alkaline conditions or in the presence of phosphate and carbonate species resulted in reduced charge carrier energy or the formation of insoluble and photostable cadmium precipitates on pigment surfaces, mitigating photodissolution. Tannic acid inhibited the photodissolution process by light screening and scavenging photogenerated holes. The fast release of Cd2+ from the pigment was further confirmed in river water under natural sunlight, with 38.6 ± 0.1% of the cadmium released within 4 h. Overall, this study underscores the importance to account for photochemical effects to inform risk assessments and regulations of cadmium pigments which are currently based on their low solubility.