Cadmium is a very dispersive pollutant which has progressively accumulated in the environment mainly in the areas where nonferrous smelters have been in operation. An important toxicological feature of cadmium is its exceptionally long biological half-life in the human body. For the general population mainly exposed to cadmium by the diet and smoking, the kidney is the main target organ. Some studies have also suggested that cadmium might play a role in the pathogenesis of hypertension. A cross-sectional study (called Cadmibel) was undertaken to assess whether environmental pollution by cadmium in Belgium might represent a health risk. This paper does not present the detailed results of this study which are published elsewhere but simply report its main conclusions. A total number of 2327 subjects (stratified according to age and sex) was randomly sampled in two urban (Liège and Charleroi) and two rural (Hechtel-Eksel and Noorderkempen) areas, with different environmental pollution by cadmium. After allowing for the various factors known to influence cadmium accumulation, it was estimated that the cadmium body burden of the residents of the most polluted district (Noorderkempen) was 50 to 85% higher than in the less polluted areas. No statistical association was found between environmental exposure to cadmium and blood pressure elevation or the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases. However, the study has shown that the environmental exposure of the general population to cadmium may induce slight renal tubular dysfunction and may probably also affect cadmium homeostasis. The probability of tubular dysfunction (as assessed by sensitive tests) is about 10% when cadmium in urine reaches 2 micrograms/day. The morbidity associated with the changes in the renal proximal tubule and the calcium metabolism observed when the body burden of cadmium exceeds this value remains to be assessed.