, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 294-303
Date: 10 Nov 2012

Study of the antimony species distribution in industrially contaminated soils

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The purpose of the present study was to investigate the distribution of antimony (Sb) and its species in soil fractions in order to understand better the real risk associated with Sb in the environment.

Materials and methods

Nine surface soil samples contaminated from lead/zinc and iron smelting operations and coal fired power plants were examined using: (1) four-step sequential extraction procedure (BCR); (2) two-step sequential extraction including ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and NH4F; and (3) single extraction with EDTA and NaOH. Liquid phase extraction was used for redox speciation of Sb. The distribution of Sb between soil fulvic and humic acids was determined after their chemical separation. The concentrations of Sb were measured by electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry.

Results and discussion

The main part of total Sb (2.5–105 mg kg−1) was associated with the residual fraction in all soils. The exchangeable/carbonate-bound concentrations were 0.83–4.7 % of total Sb. Up to 6.8 % was in the reducible and up to 1.4 % was in the oxidizable fraction. EDTA removed 7.2–11.4 % of total content. Sb(V) was the predominant form in acetic acid and EDTA extracts. Single extraction with 0.1 mol l−1 NaOH released up to 13.7 % of soil antimony. The main part of Sb was complexed to the higher molecular weight fraction of soil-derived humic substances.


For highly contaminated soils, 4 % solubility in acetic acid could represent risk of contamination of ground water under specific conditions. Also, the relatively high phytoavailable Sb (7–11 %) can represent a significant proportion in highly polluted soils. Pentavalent antimony was the main antimony species extracted from soils. The main part of the organically antimony was found to be present as complexes with higher molecular weight humic acids fraction.

Responsible editor: Juxiu Liu