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Thallium transformation and partitioning during Pb–Zn smelting and environmental implications

Liu, Juan, Wang, Jin, Chen, Yongheng, Xie, Xiaofan, Qi, Jianying, Lippold, Holger, Luo, Dinggui, Wang, Chunlin, Su, Longxiao, He, Lucheng, Wu, Qiwei
Environmental pollution 2016 v.212 pp. 77-89
bioavailability, dust, fractionation, heavy metals, minerals, pollution, risk, roasting, thallium, toxicity, wastes, China, Europe
Thallium (Tl) is a toxic and non-essential heavy metal. Raw Pb–Zn ores and solid smelting wastes from a large Pb–Zn smelting plant – a typical thallium (Tl) pollution source in South China, were investigated in terms of Tl distribution and fractionation. A modified IRMM (Institute for Reference Materials and Measurement, Europe) sequential extraction scheme was applied on the samples, in order to uncover the geochemical behavior and transformation of Tl during Pb–Zn smelting and to assess the potential environmental risk of Tl arising from this plant. Results showed that the Pb–Zn ore materials were relatively enriched with Tl (15.1–87.7 mg kg−1), while even higher accumulation existed in the electrostatic dust (3280–4050 mg kg−1) and acidic waste (13,300 mg kg−1). A comparison of Tl concentration and fraction distribution in different samples clearly demonstrated the significant role of the ore roasting in Tl transformation and mobilization, probably as a result of alteration/decomposition of related minerals followed by Tl release and subsequent deposition/co-precipitation on fine surface particles of the electrostatic dust and acidic waste. While only 10–30% of total Tl amounts was associated with the exchangeable/acid-extractable fraction of the Pb–Zn ore materials, up to 90% of total Tl was found in this fraction of the electrostatic dust and acidic waste. Taking into account the mobility and bioavailability of this fraction, these waste forms may pose significant environmental risk.