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zinc and compounds of zinc

SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
100 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Air
100 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Water
100 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Waste Water
100 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Land
This sheet is a generic summary, designed to give the reader a basic level of background information about the substance in question. Great care has been taken to represent as effectively and correctly as possible the broad range of (not necessarily consistent) information which is available from a variety of sources. The reader must accept therefore that this sheet has no legal status and cannot be relied upon in any legal proceedings. SEPA disclaims any responsibility or liability whatsoever for errors and omissions in this sheet.
What is it?
Pure zinc is a blue-white, shiny, brittle metal. It has a relatively low melting point (420 degrees celsius) and conducts electricity fairly well. Compounds of zince are usually highly coloured.
What is it used for?
Zinc and its compounds have a variety of uses: in corrosion resistant coatings, in dry-cell batteries, in alloys (mixtures of metals) such as brass and bronze and in the manufacture of paints, plastics, rubber, dyes, wood preservatives and cosmetics.
Where does it come from?
The main man-made releases of zinc to the environment are from metal production processes, from industrial combustion of coal, from waste incineration and from worn rubber tyres on vehicles. Small amounts are also released naturally from the earth's crust.
How might it affect the environment?
Releases of zinc can significantly affect local aquatic environments - accumulating in aquatic organisms (but not plants) and poisoning species that then eat them. However in the UK, emissions high enough to cause potentially damaging levels are rare. Zinc emissions are unlikely to have any environmental effects at a global level.
How might exposure to it affect human health?
Zinc is an essential nutrient for humans, but excessive amounts (more than twice the recommended daily intake) can be harmful. Exposure to potentially harmful levels usually occurs through drinking of contaminated water (due to zinc water pipes or accidental industrial releases). Effects include nausea and stomach cramps. Long-term exposure to high concentrations may cause "metal fume fever" which affects the lungs and the body's temperature control system.
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
In the UK (including Scotland), releases of zinc are controlled through the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) regulations. European Directives covering the control of zinc emissions include those concerned with the evaluation and control of risks posed by certain substances (793/93); the treatment of hazardous wastes (2268/95); and the pollution of the aquatic environment (76/464). At an international level, releases of zinc are controlled through the OSPAR convention on protection of the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic; the Basel convention on the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous wastes; and it is also listed as a priority substance under the Helsinki convention which protects the marine environment of the Baltic sea.