Complex nanominerals and ultrafine particles assemblages in phosphogypsum of the fertilizer industry and implications on human exposure

Luis F.O. Silva, James C. Hower, Maria Izquierdo, Xavier Querol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Phosphogypsum (CaSO4·2H2O), a by-product of phosphate-rock processing, contains high amounts of impurities such P2O5, F, radioactive elements, organic substances, secondary nanominerals, and ultrafine particles (UFP) enriched in metals and metalloids. In this study, we examine phosphogypsum (PG) collected from abandoned fertilizer industry facility in south Brazil (Santa Catarina state). The fragile nature of nanominerals and UFP assemblages from fertilizer industry systems required novel techniques and experimental approaches. The investigation of the geochemistry of complex nanominerals and UFP assemblages was a prerequisite to accurately assess the environmental and human health risks of contaminants and cost-effective chemical and biogeological remediation strategies. Particular emphasis was placed on the study and characterization of the complex mixed nanominerals and UFP containing potentially toxic elements. Nanometer-sized phases in PG were characterized using energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS), field-emission scanning electron microscope (FE-SEM), and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HR-TEM) images. The chemical composition and possible correlations with morphology of nanominerals and UFP, as well as aspects of nanominerals and UFP, are discussed in the context of human health exposure, as well as in relation to management of the nanominerals and UFP in PG environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5117-5122
Number of pages6
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number21
StatePublished - Oct 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research for this study was carried out with support from the IPADHC , funded in part by the IPADHC and government of Imbituba City. The authors wish to acknowledge Dr. F. Macias and Luisa, for assistance with FE-SEM and HR-TEM analyses.


  • Brazil coal mining
  • Nanoparticles
  • Phosphogypsum
  • Trace pollutants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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