Understanding Metals in the Environment

ECI contributed data and expertise to a recently-launched website providing scientific information about the behaviour of metals in the environment, targeting users of all backgrounds and levels of experience.

Metals are naturally present in the environment—with copper being an essential component of our daily diets. They can also be introduced through human activities such as the manufacture of metal goods, processing of metal ores, and through a wide range of industrial and agricultural activities. As with all materials, at high doses, metals can have a detrimental effect on plants, animals, and other organisms in the environment.

The key thing to understand is that it’s not the total amount of metal present in the environment that’s most important. Some of that metal will be bound to dissolved organic matter and other ions. Only a fraction of the metal actually interacts with aquatic organisms and causes ecological effects. This is called the ‘bioavailable’ metal. In the environment, metals rarely occur singly, and far more commonly as mixtures. The Metals in the Environment website explains metal bioavailability and the ecological effects of metal mixtures.

Metals in the Environment is a collaborative initiative between the Copper Alliance (represented in Europe by ECI), the International Zinc Association and the Nickel Producers Environmental Research Association. Information is available in the form of fact sheets, links to further information and a blog of related news and events.

Click here to visit the website.