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 July 24, 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 July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Observation Boat to Protect Cetaceans During Ship Transfer

Observation Boat to Protect Cetaceans During Ship Transfer

AFP (July 22, 2014) — As part of the 14-ship convoy that will accompany the Costa Concordia from the port of Giglio to the port of Genoa, there will be a boat carrying experts to look out for dolphins and whales from crossing the path of the Concordia. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

AP (July 21, 2014) — New Orleans is the first U.S. city to participate in a large-scale recycling effort for cigarette butts. The city is rolling out dozens of containers for smokers to use when they discard their butts. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) — A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

AFP (July 19, 2014) — A spectaCular lightning storm struck the UK overnight Friday. Images of lightning strikes over the Shard and Tower Bridge in central London. Duration: 00:23 Video provided by AFP
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