At present, the prior-established threshold values are widely used to classify contaminated agricultural soils with heavy metals under the cultivation of a variety of crops, without considering the different sensitivity of plants to heavy metals. Evaluation of the characteristics of cadmium transfer from a polluted calcareous soil to cultivated wheat crop and assessment of the efficiency of using the threshold values to reflect the soil pollution risk by cadmium in Zanjan Zinc Town area at the northwest of Iran were the goals of this study. Totally, 65 topsoil (0-20 cm) and corresponding wheat samples of an agricultural region in the proximity of a metallurgical factory were collected and analyzed for cadmium concentration. The results revealed that industrial activities strongly control cadmium distribution in the studied soils. Relatively high bioavailable cadmium contents (mean 0.77 mg kg(-1)) were found in the soils, notwithstanding their alkalinity. It was observed that just 22.5% of the studied area around the Zinc Town is covered by polluted soils with the cadmium concentration exceeding the maximum permissible concentration of 5 mg kg(-1), whereas cadmium concentration in wheat grains of 19 sampled plants is higher than the threshold value of 0.2 mg kg(-1). Among these polluted plants, a total of eight samples were grown in areas classified as unpolluted soils with cadmium, based on the soil threshold value. It seems that this misclassification of polluted soils is mainly related to the crop sensitivity to heavy metals uptake from the soil which should be considered.