Environmental footprints of brick kiln bottom ashes: Geostatistical approach for assessment of metal toxicity

Article Type

Research Article

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Science of the Total Environment


Coal fired brick kiln factories generate significant of brick kiln bottom ash (BKBA) that contaminate soil and water environments of areas near the dumping sites through leaching of toxic metals (Pb, Cr, Cd, Zn, Mn, and Cu). However, characteristics and environmental effects of BKBAs are yet unknown. We collected BKBA samples from 32 strategic locations of two rapidly developing States (West Bengal and Assam) of India. Scanning electron microscope images indicated spherical and granular structures of BKBAs produced in West Bengal (WBKBA) and Assam (ABKBA) respectively; while energy dispersive spectroscopy and analytical assessments confirmed substantial occurrence of total organic C and nutrient elements (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, and S) in both the BKBAs. FTIR analysis revealed greater predominance of organic matter in ABKBAs than WBKBAs. Occurrence of toxic metals (Cd, Cr, Pb, Zn, Mn, and Cu) was higher in ABKBAs than in WBKBAs; while organic and residual fractions of metals were highly predominant in most of the BKBAs. Principal component analysis showed that metal contents and pH were the major distinguishing characteristics of the BKBAs generated in the two different environmental locations. Human health risk associated with BKBAs generated in Assam is of significant concern. Finally, geo-statistical tools enabled to predict the spatial distribution patterns of toxic metals contributed by the BKBAs in Assam and West Bengal respectively. Assessment of contamination index, geo-accumulation index, and ecological risk index revealed some BKBAs to be more toxic than others.

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