Tungsten is a naturally occurring metallic element that in its alloy or solid form is primarily used for incandescent lightbulb filaments and X-ray tubes.
In an effort to limit toxins in the environment, tungsten is replacing lead in fishing weights and in ammunition for hunting and recreational shooting. The military is substituting tungsten in its high kinetic energy penetrators and small arms ammunition, as well as other ammunitions.
"Tungsten originally was thought to be nontoxic, as it was believed to be an inert metal of low environmental mobility," said Saugata Datta, assistant professor of geology at K-State. "But tungsten is a contaminant in groundwater and a growing concern."
Scientists and health officials began connecting tungsten to clusters of childhood leukemia cases in the Western U.S. after finding high concentrations of the element in residents' bodies. People examined lived in towns near tungsten-bearing ore deposits and even hard metal processing plants. Drinking water in these areas has an elevated concentration of tungsten.
"Animal model studies have shown tungsten can be toxic and even carcinogenic," Datta said. "Because of this, we need to understand tungsten's biogeochemistry in the environment, about which very little is known."
To find out how tungsten reacts and relates to groundwater and the surrounding environment -- referred to as biogeochemistry -- Datta recently began collaborating with Karen Johannesson, professor of earth and environmental sciences at Tulane University.
Their research is being funded by a three-year grant issued by the Hydrology Division of the National Science Foundation in fall 2010.
The project investigates the biogeochemistry of tungsten reaction and transport in the environment. More specifically it's an evaluation of how tungsten concentrations change along groundwater flow paths and modify the groundwater makeup.
When tungsten is exposed to oxygen -- a process called oxidation -- it often seeps into the ground and even into groundwater-bearing aquifers. During this process the tungsten can also mix with organic matter present in natural soils. In the presence of sulfur rich solutions, it forms thiotungstate complexes, which are also toxic.
To gather information the researchers are looking at pristine aquifers, like the Ogallala, as well as affected aquifers. Data from these findings can be used to create a conceptual model for this project and future studies, Datta said.
"Looking at emerging contaminants is one of the biggest things for an environmental geoscientist, and health is a big issue connected to any elemental or environmental study we do," Datta said.
"We are trying to approach this project from the standpoint of understanding this element and its behaviors in the environment before taking our findings to the general public so the situation can be addressed," he said.
Datta's previous work studied arsenic levels in the groundwater in West Bengal, India, and Bangladesh. Along with a K-State graduate student, he looked at why naturally occurring arsenic -- another toxin in nature -- got into groundwater from river-borne sediments, and finding well locations for cleaner water.
Saugata Datta, 785-532-2241, firstname.lastname@example.org
Saugata Datta | Newswise Science News
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
16.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2017 | Life Sciences
22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy