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.

Related Articles


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 March 1, 2015 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 March 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

AP (Feb. 28, 2015) — Researchers following endangered killer whales spotted a baby orca off the coast of Washington state, the third birth documented this winter but still leaving the population dangerously low. (Feb. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bridge Collapses Due to Flooding in Bolivia

Bridge Collapses Due to Flooding in Bolivia

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 28, 2015) — Heavy rain and flooding sweep through parts of Bolivia causing damage and leaves more than 2,000 people homeless. Sophia Soo reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Death Toll from Afghan Avalanches Tops 200

Death Toll from Afghan Avalanches Tops 200

AFP (Feb. 27, 2015) — More than 200 people have been killed in a series of avalanches triggered by heavy snowfall in Afghanistan. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
France, Philippines Call for Agreement on Climate Change

France, Philippines Call for Agreement on Climate Change

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 27, 2015) — The presidents of France and the Philippines issue a joint appeal for a binding agreement on climate change. Katie Sargent reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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