Heavy Metals And Toxicity

By Adam Ioannidis

We know what you’re thinking – and no, we aren’t going to be talking about heavy metal music. But, rather, the type of metal that contains high atomic weights, atomic numbers or high densities. Heavy metals are commonly considered to be highly toxic and dangerous. This is true to some extent. Like most things, this depends on the type of heavy metal as well as the degree of exposure. Some heavy metals are only hazardous if they’re in a certain form. But now for the big question, can heavy metals be recycled? Today our Melbourne scrap metal buyers will be answering that question – as well as looking at some other interesting facts toxic metals around the world.

What are they and how do they differ from standard metals?

In reality, there is no definitively agreed-upon definition for heavy metals and different principles of science have their own ways of defining heavy metals. Though, the metallurgy definition is the most commonly referenced version. This definition is that a heavy metal is any type of metal with a density greater than 5g/cm³– which encompasses a fair few types of metal. 

But, some of the more common heavy metals that we think of when we hear the phrase are mercury, lead, zinc, cadmium and chromium. Iron and copper can also be considered heavy metals, however. The main difference between heavy metals and standard types of metals are their density.

In physics, heavy metals are considered to be any metal with an atomic number higher than 20. This definition has been met with criticism, however, due to some of the metals with atomic numbers higher than 20, also having a low-density number. Heavy metals occur naturally within the Earth but are released through anthropogenic processes as well. 

Can they be recycled?

Ultimately, it depends on the type of heavy metal. Lead, for example, can be recycled. Mercury, on the other hand, cannot be and must be disposed of at specialised facilities. Heavy metals such as lead and mercury mustn’t end up in landfill as their toxicity will harm the environment. They will contaminate the soil and groundwater below – which will lead to the poisoning of animal and human life alike.

Rocket to Russia

There is a small town in one of Russia’s federal subjects, Arkhangelsk Oblast, that is constantly polluted by falling rocket pieces. The nearby Plesetsk Cosmodrome is one of the world’s most active missile bases. The thing is, the rockets are constantly jettisoning fuel tanks and other attachments from the air, which end up falling to the town. These pieces are scavenged, made into art and appropriated by the people of the town. Some of the rarer and valuable materials such as gold are even sold on the regions black market.

The twist is though, whilst the metals used to make these parts aren’t toxic themselves, things like heptyl, which is a rocket repellent, are still present in the detached pieces. There has been no statistical evidence at this point, however, proving that the heptyl is toxic enough to adversely affect the health of the population. Regardless, the impact on the environment is sure to head in a negative direction if toxic chemicals are still present in the metal rocket pieces.

Their effect on the environment

Whether it’s heavy metals themselves, or metals that contain traces of toxic and hazardous chemicals – they should always be recycled (if possible) or disposed of in safe and appropriate manners. Otherwise, they will contaminate groundwater supplies and soil – stunting plant growth and poisoning wildlife and water supplies. So, when possible, aim to dispose of heavy metals appropriately instead of sending them to the landfill.

Looking for scrap metal buyers in Melbourne?

If you’re thinking of selling your scrap and in need of scrap metal buyers in Melbourne, then look no further! Metal Men Recycling is a premium scrap metal recycling company that is easy, efficient and honest. We buy all forms of scrap metal including ferrous and non-ferrous types. We also offer pick-up services and can offer you a variety of bin sizes if you have a large load that you need recycled.

Our highly knowledgeable and experienced staff members will be able to assist you on-site and direct you to where you need to go. Our scrapyard contains a large weight bridge – should you need in.

So, if you’re looking for scrap metal buyers in Melbourne, then get in touch with us by calling 03 5941 6677. Alternatively, you can fill out the enquiry form on our website.

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