Tungsten in the environment: National symposium, Aug. 29

08/23/05

Stevens environmental engineers host broad sessions on hot topic

HOBOKEN, N.J. -- A team of researchers from the Center for Environmental Systems (CES) at Stevens Institute of Technology, Drs. Christos Christodoulatos, Washington Braida, Agamemnon Koutsospyros and Dimitris Dermatas, are organizing a symposium on "Tungsten: occurrence, environmental fate, potential ecological and health effects." The event is co-sponsored by the Geochemistry Division and Environmental Division of the American Chemical Society. The symposium includes 14 oral presentations, and will be held on August 29 during the 230th ACS National Meeting in Washington, DC. For more on the symposium please visit http://oasys.acs.org/acs/230nm/techprogram/S17016.HTM

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"Tungsten is a metal of extraordinary properties that make it uniquely suitable for a wide variety of uses, from household necessities to highly specialized applications," say Dr. Christodoulatos, director of the CES at Stevens. "Since its discovery, tungsten and its compounds have been perceived as environmentally benign, a notion that has recently been challenged." In September 2001, the CES initiated a research program addressing various aspects of the environmental chemistry, toxicology, and fate and transport of tungsten and tungsten heavy alloys (WHA). Recently published findings from these studies (Environmental Forensics, 5, 5-13, 2004) indicate that tungsten dissolves under mild environmental conditions and this brings about acidification of soils and depletion of their dissolved oxygen content. In addition, when mixed with soils in amounts greater than 1 percent, tungsten triggers changes in soil bio-communities that result in the death of soil microorganisms, red worms, and plants (Chemosphere, In Press, 2005).

This groundbreaking research work at CES could not have been timelier, as tungsten was detected in biological and drinking water samples in Fallon, Nev., and two other communities, where clusters of childhood leukemia were observed. This finding has alarmed public health, environmental, and regulatory agencies, who are considering the regulation of the chemical element and its compounds. The ongoing research conducted by Stevens' CES on corrosion mechanisms of tungsten alloys and tungsten composites will further elucidate the potential impact that element may have on the environment.

The CES-organized symposium will address tungsten environmental chemistry, toxicology, health effects, and fate and transport. The event has attracted prominent researchers from around the world.

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