SEGH Articles

Fate of smelter dusts in soils

14 October 2016
Winner of the best poster prize at the SEGH meeting in Brussels. Alice Jarosikova, PhD student from Charles University in Prague, describes her research on fate of smelter-derived dust particles in soils.

Areas in the vicinity of metal smelters are inevitably exposed to metal(loid)-bearing particulates, which are emitted and dispersed in the environmental compartments. Especially surrounding soils represent an important sink for the most of these anthropogenic emissions.


1. Dust emitted from the copper smelter

The main objective of our study is to identify the fate of smelter dusts when deposited in soils as well as to clarify subsequent dynamics of smelter-related contaminants in the soil systems, which can interact with water and biota. We use a long-term in situ experimental approach, where polyamide bags filled with smelter dusts are placed for incubation into different depths of soil profiles. Our current 4-year in situ experiment has been initiated in October 2013 in four contrasting soil types and under different vegetation covers using the methodology described by Ettler et al. (2012). We have compared the weathering rates of smelter dusts in the following soils: neutral-to-alkaline Chernozem developed on loess (grass cover), neutral-to-slightly acidic Cambisol (grass cover), and acidic Cambisols developed under the beech and spruce forests. Our study materials are (i) arsenic rich fly ash (composed mostly of arsenolite, As2O3, galena, PbS and gypsum, CaSO4·2H2O) and (ii) copper slag (enriched in Cu, Zn and Pb). We collect experimental bags each 6 months and soil columns are vertically sampled (each 5 cm of depth) using physical rings and when possible, soil pore water is collected using Rhizon samplers. We perform mineralogical analysis on smelter dusts (to identify changes in phase composition), supplemented with bulk chemistry of dusts and soil samples coupled to As speciation analysis in soil pore waters and extracts.


2. Soil sampling after the smelter dust incubation using physical rings

Despite the fact that our field experiment is just in the middle and data collection is still in progress, we find that fly ash particles are highly reactive in soil systems and their dissolution is increasing over time. Arsenic leaching associated with the highest fly ash dissolution was the most significant in soil developed under the beech forest mainly due to specific seepage conditions leading to more rapid flush regime (higher moisture than for other soil types). Observation under the scanning electron microscopy (SEM) indicated that the fly ash incubated in soil under the beech was the most weathered with etched arsenolite surfaces and secondary formation of a complex metal-bearing arsenate phase.

Field experimental studies are always more difficult than laboratory investigations, because a number of parameters cannot be fully controlled. However, they are more suitable for understanding complex processes in real-life scenarios. We are looking forward to the next sampling campaign in October 2016 J

Alice Jarošíková

PhD candidate at Institute of Geochemistry, Mineralogy and Mineral Resources, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic


Ettler, V., Mihaljevič, M., Šebek, O., Grygar, T., Klementová, M., 2012. Experimental in situ transformation of Pb smelter fly ash in acidic soils. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46, 10539-10548.


Keep up to date

Submit Content

Members can keep in touch with their colleagues through short news and events articles of interest to the SEGH community.

Science in the News

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Improving arsenopyrite oxidation rate laws: implications for arsenic mobilization during aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) 2018-04-25


    Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) and aquifer recharge (AR) provide technical solutions to address water supply deficits and growing future water demands. Unfortunately, the mobilization of naturally present arsenic due to ASR/AR operations has undermined its application on a larger scale. Predicting arsenic mobility in the subsurface during ASR/AR is further complicated by site-specific factors, including the arsenic mobilization mechanisms, groundwater flow conditions, and multi-phase geochemical interactions. In order to ensure safe and sustainable ASR/AR operation, a better understanding of these factors is needed. The current study thus aims to better characterize and model arsenic remobilization at ASR/AR sites by compiling and analyzing available kinetic data on arsenic mobilization from arsenopyrite under different aqueous conditions. More robust and widely applicable rate laws are developed for geochemical conditions relevant to ASR/AR. Sensitivity analysis of these new rate laws gives further insight into the controlling geochemical factors for arsenic mobilization. When improved rate laws are incorporated as the inputs for reactive transport modeling, arsenic mobilization in ASR/AR operations can be predicted with an improved accuracy. The outcomes will be used to guide groundwater monitoring and specify ASR/AR operational parameters, including water pretreatment requirements prior to injection.

  • Heavy metal exposure has adverse effects on the growth and development of preschool children 2018-04-25


    The purpose of this study was to investigate the associations between levels of lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), and manganese (Mn) in the PM2.5 and blood and physical growth, and development parameters including birth length and weight, height, weight, body mass index (BMI), head circumference, and chest circumference in preschool children from Guiyu (e-waste exposure area) and Haojiang (the reference area). A total of 470 preschool children from Guiyu and Haojiang located in southeast coast of China were recruited and required to undergo physical examination and blood tests during the study period. Birth length and weight were obtained by birth records and questionnaire. Pb and Cd in both PM2.5 and blood were significantly higher in Guiyu than Haojiang. Remarkably, the children of Guiyu had significantly lower birth weight and length, BMI, and chest circumference when compare to their peers from the reference area (all p value < 0.05). Spearman correlation analyses showed that blood Pb was negatively correlated with height (r = −0.130, p < 0.001), weight (r = −0.169, p < 0.001), BMI (r = −0.100, p < 0.05), head circumference (r = −0.095, p < 0.05), and chest circumference (r = −0.112, p < 0.05). After adjustment for the potential confounders in further linear regression analyses, blood Pb was negatively associated with height (β = −0.066, p < 0.05), weight (β = −0.119, p < 0.001), head circumference (β = −0.123, p < 0.01), and chest circumference (β = −0.104, p < 0.05), respectively. No significant association between blood Cd, Cr, or Mn was found with any of our developmental outcomes. Taken together, lead exposure limits or delays the growth and development of preschool children.

  • Contamination characteristics of trace metals in dust from different levels of roads of a heavily air-polluted city in north China 2018-04-24


    Concentrations of eight trace metals (TMs) in road dust (RD) (particles < 25 μm) from urban areas of Xinxiang, China, were determined by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. The geometric mean concentrations of Zn, Mn, Pb, As, Cu, Cr, Ni and Cd were 489, 350, 114, 101, 60.0, 39.7, 31.6, and 5.1 mg kg−1, respectively. When compared with TM levels in background soil, the samples generally display elevated TM concentrations, except for Cr and Mn, and for Cd the enrichment value was 69.6. Spatial variations indicated TMs in RD from park path would have similar sources with main roads, collector streets and bypasses. Average daily exposure doses of the studied TMs were about three orders of magnitude higher for hand-to-mouth ingestion than dermal contact, and the exposure doses for children were 9.33 times higher than that for adults. The decreasing trend of calculated hazard indexes (HI) for the eight elements was As > Pb > Cr > Mn > Cd > Zn > Ni > Cu for both children and adults.