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Estimating bioaccessibility of trace elements in particles suspended in the Athabasca River using sequential extraction

Javed, Muhammad Babar, Shotyk, William
Environmental pollution 2018 v.240 pp. 466-474
X-ray diffraction, bioavailability, bitumen, copper, dust, energy-dispersive X-ray analysis, ice, industry, lead, minerals, molybdenum, nickel, particulates, protocols, rivers, silicates, snow, toxicity, vanadium, water solubility
Employing protocols developed for polar snow and ice, water samples were collected upstream, midstream and downstream of open pit bitumen mines and upgraders along the Lower Athabasca River (AR). The purpose was to: i) estimate the bioaccessibility of trace elements associated with particulate matter in the AR using sequential extraction, and ii) determine whether their forms have been measurably impacted by industrial activities. Of the trace metals known to be enriched in bitumen (V, Ni, Mo and Re), a substantial proportion of V (78–93%) and Ni (35–81%) was found in the residual fraction representing stable minerals. In contrast, Mo and Re were partitioned mainly into more reactive forms (water soluble, acid extractable, reducible and oxidisable). Comparing the non-residual fractions in upstream versus downstream sites, only water soluble Re was significantly (P = 0.005) greater downstream of industry. In respect to the potentially toxic chalcophile elements (Cu, Pb and Tl), no measurable change was observed in Cu and Pb distribution in upstream versus downstream sites. Only residual Tl was found at upstream and midstream sites, whereas a significant proportion of Tl was also present in the reducible fraction in downstream sites. Overall, a greater proportion of trace metals in the residual fraction at midstream sites appears to be due to inputs of atmospheric dust, clearly evident in microscopic images: energy dispersive spectroscopy and x-ray diffraction analyses showed that these particles were predominantly silicates, which are assumed to have limited bioaccessibility.