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Regional occurrence of aqueous tungsten and relations with antimony, arsenic and molybdenum concentrations (Sardinia, Italy)

June 18, 2021

Tungsten (W) is rarely found in natural waters, yet it can be introduced into the food chain and cause potentially toxic effects. Uptake of W by plants and vegetables, or trace presence of W in drinking water are possible vectors for ingestion of W by humans. The latter is recognized as a possible cause of lymphatic leukemia. Increased uses of W might result in a degradation of water resources, with attendant adverse effects on biota and human health. Therefore, this study was aimed at investigating regional occurrence and speciation of W in aquatic systems in Sardinia, Italy, factors affecting W mobility and possible relations with other oxyanion-forming trace elements such as Sb, As and Mo. Although our results are specifically from Sardinia, the implications are broader and should prompt future studies in other areas with known high W concentrations.

A total of 350 sample sites are reported here, including surface waters, groundwaters, mine drainages, thermal waters and local seawater. The waters were analyzed for major and trace components, including W, Sb, As and Mo. The waters showed a variety of major chemical compositions and W concentrations. High concentrations of W were found in some mine waters and drainages from slag heaps, with W, Sb and As up to 140, 5000 and 800 μg L−1, respectively. The highest concentrations of W occurred under slightly alkaline pH and oxygenated conditions, and were likely due to the dissolution of scheelite [CaWO4] hosted in materials with which the water came into contact. High W concentrations also were observed in thermal waters, under alkaline pH and reducing conditions, and sometimes coincided with relatively high concentrations either of As or Mo.

Previous studies of W geochemistry have focused on WO42− as the major dissolved form of W. For this study, we have augmented the thermodynamic database in PHREEQC to include possible formation of many other W-bearing complexes gleaned from the literature. The results of the speciation calculations with the newly added complexation reactions shows that the neutral species CaWO4° and MgWO4° are particularly dominant in most W-bearing waters and lead to undersaturation with respect to scheelite and other W-bearing minerals.

Assessing W contamination in water systems and establishing W limits in drinking water may prevent potential adverse effects of W on human and ecosystem health.

Publication Year 2021
Title Regional occurrence of aqueous tungsten and relations with antimony, arsenic and molybdenum concentrations (Sardinia, Italy)
DOI 10.1016/j.gexplo.2021.106846
Authors Rosa Cidu, Riccardo Biddau, Franco Frau, Richard Wanty, Stefano Naitza
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geochemical Exploration
Index ID 70230947
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center