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University of Texas
30 March 2015
22 June 2015
13 December 2015
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Science in the News
Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health
- Speciation and bioaccessibility of mercury in adobe bricks and dirt floors in Huancavelica, Peru 2015-04-01
Huancavelica, Peru, a historic cinnabar refining site, is one of the most mercury (Hg)-contaminated urban areas in the world. Exposure is amplified because residents build their adobe brick homes from contaminated soil. The objectives of this study were to compare two Hg-leaching procedures, and their application as risk-assessment screening tools in Hg-contaminated adobe brick homes in Huancavelica. The purpose was to evaluate potential health implications, particularly for children, after ingestion of Hg-contaminated particles. Hg was measured in adobe brick and dirt floor samples from 60 households by total Hg extraction, simulated gastric fluid (GF) extraction, and sequential selective extraction (SSE), which provides more detailed data but is resource-intensive. Most of the Hg present in samples was relatively insoluble, although in some households soluble Hg species were present at concentrations that may be of concern after ingestion. A strong correlation was identified between results from simulated GF extraction of adobe bricks and dirt floors and the more soluble fractions of Hg from SSE. Simulated GF extraction data were combined with ingestion and body mass characteristics for small children to compare potential risk of ingestion of Hg-contaminated soil with current health standards. Simulated GF extraction can be used as a risk assessment screening tool for effective allocation of time and resources to households that have measurable concentrations of bioaccessible Hg. Combining simulated GF extraction data with health standards enables intervention strategies targeted at households with the greatest potential health threat from ingestion of Hg-contaminated particles.
- Trace elements in urinary stones: a preliminary investigation in Fars province, Iran 2015-04-01
In view of the high incidence rate of urinary stones in the south and southwest of Iran, this paper investigates trace elements content including heavy metals in 39 urinary stones, collected from patients in Fars province, Iran. The mineralogy of the stones is investigated using X-ray diffractometry. The samples are classified into five mineral groups (calcium oxalate, uric acid, cystine, calcium phosphate and mixed stone). Major and trace elements in each group were determined using ICP-MS method. P and Ca constitute the main elements in urinary stones with Ca being more affine to oxalates while other alkali and alkaline earths precipitate with phosphate. Significant amounts of trace elements, especially Zn and Sr, were found in urinary calculi (calcium oxalate and phosphates) relative to biominerals (uric acid and cystine). Among urinary calculi, calcium phosphate contains greater amounts of trace metal than calcium oxalate. Phosphates seem to be the most important metal-bearing phases in urinary stones. Results indicate that concentrations of elements in urinary stones depend on the type of mineral phases. Significant differences in elements content across various mineralogical groups were found by applying statistical methods. Kruskal–Wallis test reveals significant difference between Ca, P, K, Na, Mg, S, Zn, Sr, Se, Cd, and Co content in different investigated mineral groups. Moreover, Mann–Whitney test differentiates Ca, Na, Zn, Sr, Co, and Ni between minerals in oxalate and uric acid stones. This study shows that urinary stone can provide complementary information on human exposure to elements and estimate the environmental risks involved in urinary stones formation.
- Risk assessment of particle dispersion and trace element contamination from mine-waste dumps 2015-04-01
In this study, a model to delimit risk zones influenced by atmospheric particle dispersion from mine-waste dumps is developed to assess their influence on the soil and the population according to the concentration of trace elements in the waste. The model is applied to the Riotinto Mine (in SW Spain), which has a long history of mining and heavy land contamination. The waste materials are separated into three clusters according to the mapping, mineralogy, and geochemical classification using cluster analysis. Two of the clusters are composed of slag, fresh pyrite, and roasted pyrite ashes, which may contain high concentrations of trace elements (e.g., >1 % As or >4 % Pb). The average pollution load index (PLI) calculated for As, Cd, Co, Cu, Pb, Tl, and Zn versus the baseline of the regional soil is 19. The other cluster is primarily composed of sterile rocks and ochreous tailings, and the average PLI is 3. The combination of particle dispersion calculated by a Gaussian model, the PLI, the surface area of each waste and the wind direction is used to develop a risk-assessment model with Geographic Information System GIS software. The zone of high risk can affect the agricultural soil and the population in the study area, particularly if mining activity is restarted in the near future. This model can be applied to spatial planning and environmental protection if the information is complemented with atmospheric particulate matter studies.