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Preliminary findings of chemistry and bioaccessibility in base metal smelter slags

Morrison, A.L., Gulson, B.L.
The Science of the total environment 2007 v.382 no.1 pp. 30-42
metals, slags, bioavailability, leaching, lead, landscaping, blood, children, particles, cadmium, arsenic, public health, particle size, zinc, chemical composition, risk assessment, ingestion, dietary exposure, New South Wales
Leaching of toxic metals from slag waste produced during smelting of Pb-Zn ores is generally considered to be negligible. A 1.4 million tonne stockpile of slag containing up to 2.5% Pb and other contaminants has accumulated on a smelter site at North Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia, and it has also been freely used within the community for landscaping and drainage projects. It had been suggested that Pb in fine particles derived from the slags may be a potential contributor to the blood Pb of some children in this community, although there is conflicting evidence in the literature for such a hypothesis. Bioaccessibility of lead and selected metals derived from nine slag samples collected from areas of public open space was examined using a relatively simple in vitro gastric dissolution technique. Size analyses of the slag samples demonstrate that finely-sized material was present in the slags which could be ingested, especially by children. The finer-sized particles contain high levels of Pb (6490-41,400 ppm), along with Cd and As. Pb bioaccessibility of the slags was high, averaging 45% for - 250 μm material and 75% for particles in the size range - 53 + 32 μm. Increasing bioaccessibility and Pb concentration showed an inverse relationship to particle size. Almost 100% of Pb would be bioaccessible in the smallest slag particles (< 20 μm), which also contained very high Pb levels ranging from 50,000 to 80,000 ppm and thus constitute a potential health hazard for children.