Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Red mud' disaster's main threat to crops is not toxic metals, but instead high alkalinity

Date:
February 3, 2011
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
As farmers in Hungary ponder spring planting on hundreds of acres of farmland affected by last October's red mud disaster, scientists are reporting that high alkalinity is the main threat to a bountiful harvest, not toxic metals. In a new study, they also describe an inexpensive decontamination strategy using the mineral gypsum, an ingredient in plaster.

As farmers in Hungary ponder spring planting on hundreds of acres of farmland affected by last October's red mud disaster, scientists are reporting that high alkalinity is the main threat to a bountiful harvest, not toxic metals. In a study in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they also describe an inexpensive decontamination strategy using the mineral gypsum, an ingredient in plaster.

Erik Smolders and colleagues note that a dam burst at a factory processing aluminum ore, flooding the surrounding land with more than 700,000 cubic yards of a byproduct termed red mud. At least 10 people died and hundreds were injured in Hungary's worst-ever environmental disaster. Red mud contains toxic metals like arsenic, chromium, cadmium and nickel.

The mud also contains radioactive elements and is highly alkaline, caustic enough to burn skin and eyes. On the scale for measuring acidity or alkalinity, 7 is neutral, anything above 7 is alkaline and below is acid. Red mud is about one million times more alkaline than a neutral material. With up to 4 inches of red mud coating farmland, concerns arose about red mud's potential impact on the 2011 planting of corn, alfalfa, and other crops. With little scientific knowledge about red mud's effects on plant growth, much of the concern focused on toxic metals.

The scientists' tests showed that plants in contaminated soil grew about 25 percent slower than crops grown in uncontaminated soil. The main culprit, however, appeared to be not toxic metals or radioactivity, but red mud's intense alkalinity and salt content. Adding gypsum to the red mud can reduce alkalinity and will accelerate the removal of the salts, the scientists add, recommending long-term monitoring of metals in the crops to remove any concerns with food chain contamination.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stefan Ruyters, Jelle Mertens, Elvira Vassilieva, Boris Dehandschutter, André Poffijn, Erik Smolders. The Red Mud Accident in Ajka (Hungary): Plant Toxicity and Trace Metal Bioavailability in Red Mud Contaminated Soil. Environmental Science & Technology, 2011; 110104093302074 DOI: 10.1021/es104000m

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "'Red mud' disaster's main threat to crops is not toxic metals, but instead high alkalinity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202082311.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2011, February 3). 'Red mud' disaster's main threat to crops is not toxic metals, but instead high alkalinity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202082311.htm
American Chemical Society. "'Red mud' disaster's main threat to crops is not toxic metals, but instead high alkalinity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202082311.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) — An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) — Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins