Characterization of zinc, lead and cadmium in mine waste: implications for transport, exposure, and bioavailability.



Citation:

Schaider LA, Senn DB, Brabander DJ, McCarthy KD, Shine JP. Characterization of zinc, lead, and cadmium in mine waste: implications for transport, exposure, and bioavailability. Environmental Science and Technology 2007;41(11):4164-4171.

Abstract:

We characterized the lability and bioaccessibility of Zn, Pb, and Cd in size-fractionated mine waste at the Tar Creek Superfund Site (Oklahoma) to assess the potential for metal transport, exposure, and subsequent bioavailability. Bulk mine waste samples contained elevated Zn (9100 ± 2500 ppm), Pb (650 ± 360 ppm), and Cd (42 ± 10 ppm), while particles with the greatest potential for wind-borne transport and inhalation (<10 μm) contained substantially higher concentrations, up to 220 000 ppm Zn, 16 000 ppm Pb, and 530 ppm Cd in particles <1 μm. Although the mined ore at Tar Creek primarily consisted of refractory metal sulfides with low bioavailability, sequential extractions and physiologically based extractions indicate that physical and chemical weathering have shifted metals into relatively labile and bioaccessible mineral phases. In <37 μm mine waste particles, 50−65% of Zn, Pb, and Cd were present in the “exchangeable” and “carbonate” sequential extraction fractions, and 60−80% of Zn, Pb, and Cd were mobilized in synthetic gastric fluid, while ZnS and PbS exhibited minimal solubility in these solutions. Our results demonstrate the importance of site-specific characterization of size-fractionated contemporary mine waste when assessing the lability and bioavailability of metals at mine-waste impacted sites.