Cadmium has a high toxicity and is carcinogenic. Cadmium, along with mercury and lead, is one of the heavy metals that are of environmental concern as it can be toxic at levels only moderately elevated above natural ambient levels. The effects of chronic exposure to trace amounts of cadmium are less well understood.
Significant higher levels of cadmium are found in the northern fulmar compared with other seabird species. This is attributed to the feeding biology and the fact that northern fulmar is a long living bird species. The northern fulmar often feed from offal discharges from fishing boats.
The fulmar prefers fish liver, and since the liver is the organ where most of the body burden of cadmium is stored, it could be exposed to higher levels of cadmium due to its feeding habits. The cadmium concentration also increases with age in birds. This contributes to the explanation of a higher cadmium load in the long lived northern fulmar. These maps also indicate that the western part of the Barents Sea has a higher load of cadmium than the eastern part. This difference is rather small and further research is needed to clarify whether it is due to regional differences or other factors. The levels of cadmium in published papers show background levels for all other seabird species.