Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 189–200 | Cite as

Effects of rare earth elements on the environment and human health: A literature review

  • Kyung-Taek RimEmail author
Mini review


REEs are a group of metals comprised of yttrium, fourteen lanthanide elements, and scandium, which have been called ‘industrial vitamins’ and a ‘treasury’ of novel materials due to their dominant role in technical progress and in the development of traditional industries. Despite the growing interest, information that has become available over the last two decades regarding RREs is relatively premature and scarce, which has led to the current controversy regarding the health benefits vs toxic effects of these materials. There are many environmental and health issues associated the production, processing, and utilization of REEs. This review offers an examination of the roles of REEs in the onset of cellular oxidative stress in reference to the impact of REE exposure to cells, animals, and plants, in order to explain disease and occupational poisoning of local residents, water pollution, and farmland destruction. Conversely, a body of evidence has shown REE-associated antioxidant effects in the treatment of many diseases. The content herein is aimed at presenting the recent and pending developments in the field of REE with respect to environmental and human health implications. Multi-faceted updates on the roles of REEs focusing on different organisms and exposure routes, and several issues regarding environmental and biological research, are discussed. The current gaps in information raise a number of open questions that deserve ad hoc investigation.


Rare earth element Environment Health Review 


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Copyright information

© Korean Society of Environmental Risk Assessment and Health Science and Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chemicals Toxicity Research Bureau, Occupational Safety and Health Research InstituteKorea Occupational Safety and Health AgencyDaejeonRepublic of Korea

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