Environmental Science

Silver and Its Surroundings

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Science  10 Aug 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5839, pp. 723
DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5839.723c

Silver has been prized throughout human history for its sheen and more recently for its exceptional electrical conductivity and its chemical applicability to photographic processing. Although its toxicity is only moderate in comparison with that of other heavy metals, its antimicrobial properties point to the utility of a more thorough understanding of its environmental impact, particularly in light of the steadily increasing stream of electronics waste. In this vein, Eckelman and Graedel have analyzed the worldwide anthropogenic release of silver to air, land, and water. Their analysis spanned 64 countries for the year 1997 and compared releases from the mining stage through manufacturing and waste disposal (they note that more than half of processed silver is recycled). The plurality of the 13 million kg of discarded silver (~44%) went to landfills, with the next highest category (~30%) being composed of tailings released during mining. Regional toxicological impact was estimated based on a previously established hazard ranking of various silver compounds. — JSY

Environ. Sci. Technol. 41, 10.1021/es062970d (2007).

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