Purpose Of This Review

The past five to eight years can be characterised as a period of very active research on metal use in society as well as on metal fluxes and effects in the environment and on human health. Thus, a considerable amount of valuable new data covering various environmental aspects of trace metals has been published since the three monographs, summarising the then available knowledge on zinc (Zn), copper (Cu) and chromium (Cr) - nickel (Ni) - molybdenum (Mo) "in Society and in the Environment", were prepared by MFG, Sweden, in the years 1996 - 1999.

Regulatory authorities in Europe, both at the union and the national level, are frequently referring to results from "new research" in their efforts to regulate or restrict the uses of metals and metal-containing materials. As a support to rational decision-making, it seems essential to ensure that new data is properly reviewed and evaluated regarding its scientific quality, and that the new information is compiled in a readily accessible form. Therefore, the Swedish "Metal Information Task Force" (MITF) took an initiative, in the middle of 2002, to let MFG make an update of the information given in the previous monographs, with the aim of presenting a comprehensive overview of the latest advances in the research on the behaviour and effects of trace metals in the environment.

The main focus of current metal research has been on (i) metal fluxes within society and from the anthroposphere to the environment, and on (ii) metal speciation in natural waters, sediments and soils, including metal binding to biomolecules (in gill tissue, intestines, etc.) and metal uptake into living organisms. These aspects have also been given particular emphasis in the present update.

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