New Detoxification Processes for Asbestos Fibers in the Environment
Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A
Airborne asbestos fibers are associated with many serious detrimental effects on human health, while the hazard posed by waterborne fibers remains an object of debate. In adopting a precautionary principle, asbestos content in water needs to be kept as low as possible and polluting waters with asbestos should be avoided. Turci et al. (2008) recently reported a method for the decontamination of asbestos-polluted waters or landfill leachates from chrysotile that combines power ultrasound (US)
... ultrasound (US) with oxalic acid (Ox), an acidic chelating molecule. In the previous study, the occurrence of antigorite, a polymorph of serpentine, the mineral group encompassing chrysotile asbestos, acted as a confounding factor for complete removal of chrysotile from water. The effects of US + Ox on pure chrysotile asbestos from Val Malenco, Italian Central Alps, were examined in this investigation. In the absence of mineral contaminants, a more rapid removal of pure chrysotile from water was undertaken with respect to the previous specimen. After only 12 h of combined US + Ox acid treatment, imaging (SEM) of mineral debris indicated complete loss of fibrous habit. In addition, crystallography and vibrational features of chrysotile were not detectable (x-ray powder diffraction [XRPD] and micro-Raman spectroscopy) and elemental analysis showed a low Mg/Si ratio, i.e., the loss of the brucitic layer in chrysotile (x-ray fluorescence, XRF). Some nanometric rod-shaped debris, observed in the previous study and tentatively recognized as serpentine antigorite, was now found to be made of amorphous silica, which is relatively safe and noncarcinogenic to humans, providing further assurance regarding the safety of treated product. Thus, data indicated the proposed method was effective in detoxifying waterborne chrysotile asbestos fibers. The micro-Raman and XRF measures have been obtained with the equipment acquired by the Interdepartmental Center "G. Scansetti" for Studies on Asbestos and Other Toxic Particulates with a grant from Compagnia di San Paolo, Torino, Italy. The authors acknowledge Danacamerini SAS (Torino, Italy) for engineering the US reactor.