Leaching Properties of Naturally Occurring Heavy Metals from Soils

Friday, 19 December 2014
Ming Zhang, Mihoko Hoshino, Miho Yoshikawa, Junko Hara and Hajime Sugita, Geol. Survy of Japan, AIST, Ibaraki, Japan
The major threats to human health from heavy metals are associated with exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, as well as some other elements. The effects of such heavy metals on human health have been extensively studied and reviewed by international organizations such as WHO. Due to their toxicity, heavy metal contaminations have been regulated by national environmental standards in many countries, and/or laws such as the Soil Contamination Countermeasures Act in Japan.   Leaching of naturally occurring heavy metals from the soils, especially those around abandoned metal mines into surrounding water systems, either groundwater or surface water systems, is one of the major pathways of exposure. Therefore, understanding the leaching properties of toxic heavy metals from naturally polluted soils is of fundamentally importance for effectively managing abandoned metal mines, excavated rocks discharged from infrastructure constructions such as tunneling, and/or selecting a pertinent countermeasure against pollution when it is necessary.   In this study, soil samples taken from the surroundings of abandoned metal mines in different regions in Japan were collected and analyzed. The samples contained multiple heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and chromium. Standard leaching test and sequential leaching test considering different forms of contaminants, such as trivalent and pentavalent arsenics, and trivalent and hexavalent chromiums, together with standard test for evaluating total concentration, X-ray Fluorescence Analysis (XRF), X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD) and Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) tests were performed. In addition, sequential leaching tests were performed to evaluate long-term leaching properties of lead from representative samples. This presentation introduces the details of the above experimental study, discusses the relationships among leaching properties and chemical and mineral compositions, indicates the difficulties associated with remediation of naturally polluted sites, and emphasizes the importance of risk-based countermeasures against naturally occurring heavy metals.   Keywords: Leaching properties, Control Factor, Naturally Occurring Heavy Metals, Lead, Arsenic, Chromium