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Arrested municipal waste incinerator ash as a source of heavy metals to the UK environment.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date1992
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Number of pages6
Original languageEnglish


Arrested fly ash samples from most currently operating municipal solid waste (MSW) incinerators in the UK have been analysed for a range of elements. Some of the more important heavy metals ranged in concentration as follows: Cd, 21–4646 (median = 271) mg kg−1; Cu, 296–1307 (642) mg kg−1; Cr, 44–1328 (574) mg kg−1; Ni, 45–2204 (74) mg kg−1; Pb, 447–9704 (4337) mg kg−1; and Zn, 2285-13 500 (9232) mg kg−1. These concentrations represent considerable enrichments relative to median UK soil concentrations. Enrichment ratios (defined as median fly ash: median UK soil) were as follows: Mn 1·6; Co 2·6; Ni 3·3; Ba 11; Sr 11; Cr 15; Cu 35; Pb 108; Zn 113; Cd 387. It is estimated that MSW incinerator ash contributes c. 15 t Cd and 241 t Pb to UK landfill sites per annum. These figures compare with previous studies by Hutton & Symon (Hutton, M. & Symon, C. (1986). The quantities of cadmium, lead, mercury and arsenic entering the UK environment from human activities. Sci. Total Environ., 57, 129-50.) which estimated that annual inputs to UK landfills from coal fly ash are c. 60 t Cd and 1270 t Pb. However, it is argued that metals associated with MSW ashes are potentially of greater environmental significance than in coal ashes, because they are much more available and present at much higher concentrations.