Surprising new health and environmental concerns about tungsten

Jan 19, 2009

Surprising new scientific research is raising concerns about the potential health and environmental hazards of tungsten — a metal used in products ranging from bullets to light bulbs to jewelry — that scientists once thought was environmentally-benign, according to an article scheduled for the Jan. 19 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Rachel Petkewich notes that scientists have long held that tungsten is relatively insoluble in water and nontoxic. As a result, the U.S. military developed in the mid 1990s so-called "green bullets" that contain tungsten as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to lead-based ammunition.

But studies now show that tungsten, which is also used in welding, metal cutting, and other applications, is not as chemically inert as previously thought. Some forms of tungsten can move readily though soil and groundwater under certain environmental conditions. Both the U.S. Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency now classify the element as an "emerging contaminant" of concern.

Although scientists think that tungsten seems much less toxic than lead or mercury, they do not know its exact health and environmental effects, the article notes. Scientists have shown that exposure to tungsten can stunt the growth of plants, cause reproductive problems in earthworms, and trigger premature death in certain aquatic animals. But whether or not tungsten can cause chronic health effects in humans, and its mechanism of action, awaits further study, the article suggests.

Article: "Unease Over Tungsten." This story is available on January 19 at pubs.acs.org/cen/science/87/8703sci2.html

Source: ACS

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User comments : 4

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Modernmystic
3 / 5 (4) Jan 19, 2009
Please sir...may I have some grant money....?
dirk_bruere
4 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2009
Well, it shouldn't be surprising since it is known that "green bullets" or worse, the replacement for DU in anti-armor weapons, is extremely carcinogenic:
http://www.ehponl...505.html

"rapidly cause tumors, then lung cancer, when embedded in rats to emulate shrapnel wounds. "
artguy
not rated yet Jan 19, 2009
Some more about the possible effects of DIME weapons, containing tungsten powder, on humans:
http://www.indepe...910.html

Dr Fosse said he had seen a number of patients with extensive injuries to their lower bodies. "It was as if they had stepped on a mine, but there was no shrapnel in the wounds," he said. "Some had lost their legs. It looked as though they had been sliced off. I have been to war zones for 30 years, but I have never seen such injuries before."
Velanarris
not rated yet Jan 22, 2009
Dr Fosse said he had seen a number of patients with extensive injuries to their lower bodies. "It was as if they had stepped on a mine, but there was no shrapnel in the wounds," he said. "Some had lost their legs. It looked as though they had been sliced off. I have been to war zones for 30 years, but I have never seen such injuries before."


DIME weapons are shrapnel bombs. The shrapnel is just far smaller, and in the case of nickle and tungsten, cancer causing, just as a DU shrapnel bomb would be.

If that quote for Dr. Fosse is accurate I question what warzones he's been in. DIME weapons have been in use for over 10 years now (tested in the first gulf war, expanded use in Afghanistan, Chechnia, Bosnia, and the second gulf war). Only now, due to the focus on the Middle East and Gaza in particular, is this of note due to the high civilian casualty rates. Gaza is basically a giant condo complex. Firing off any weapon in that area is going to result in massive immediate civilian casualty and extended future fallout.