Tungsten carbide-cobalt (WC-Co) is a non-naturally occurring compound, which is technically produced from tungsten ores and by mixing of WC powders with cobalt.

 

Until the 1950s, environmental protection was barely considered and WC and Co were released to the environment via air or water during the production process. Today, a release of hard metal particles into the environment is strictly forbidden. Modern hard metal facilities are equipped with filter systems, which significantly reduce the release of airborne particles. The waste is collected and recycled or deposited as hazardous waste. Theoretically, WC-Co particles might be released by accidents e.g. during powder transport. However, up to now such accidences have not been reported.

In the vicinity of Fallon (Nevada, USA) an enrichment of tungsten and cobalt in air and water as well as in lichen and wood has been detected [1]. A hard metal facility in the town or a close by military base are discussed as potential source.

 

 

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