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Vanadium

SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
10.0 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Air
Disclaimer
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?
Under normal conditions Vanadium is a bright silvery white metal, which has no smell. It sometimes has a crystalline appearance. Vanadium reacts readily with a variety of different species and forms a large number of multi-coloured compounds. 'Pure' Vanadium is a mixture of two isotopes or forms V-51 and V-50. The latter constitutes less than 1% of the total and is radioactive. The melting point of pure Vanadium is around 1900 degrees celsius. It is insoluble in water and organic (carbon-containing) solvents. Compounds of Vanadium may however be readily soluble in both water and organic solvents.
What is it used for?
Vanadium is added to metals and mixtures of metals to increase strength and durability. Steel and Iron alloys to which Vanadium is added are used to make aircraft parts and for more general machinery parts and tools. Vanadium is also used in the chemical industry as a powerful catalyst (an agent to speed up reactions) in a number of commercially important processes. Small amounts of Vanadium compounds are added to a variety of products as colour modifiers.
Where does it come from?
The most significant releases of Vanadium are likely to occur from oil refineries and from the combustion of fossil fuels, in which they are naturally present. Releases may also occur from steel works and other industry using it. Over 60 different compounds of Vanadium are found naturally in mineral deposits in rocks. Small amounts of Vanadium are released from these natural sources.
How might it affect the environment?
Toxic effects of Vanadium pollution are only likely where large accidental spills or dumping of contaminated ash has occurred. Vanadium released as a result of man's activities can persist in the environment for considerable periods of time. In the atmosphere, it is likely to form aerosol particles which are then deposited on soils or surface waters. Vanadium binds strongly to soil particles and sediments and is not mobile. It may also react with other species in the environment to form a variety of compounds. Accumulation of Vanadium has been observed in some plants, but not in animals. It is not considered likely that Vanadium pollution has any effects on the global environment.
How might exposure to it affect human health?
Vanadium can enter the body either by inhalation of air containing vanadium, ingestion of food or water containing vanadium, or by dermal contact with vanadium. Inhalation of air containing vanadium can cause lung irritation, sore throat, wheezing, chest pain, runny nose, and asthma. Exposure to vanadium may affect the central nervous system with symptoms including headache and tremors. There is little evidence for the full effects of ingestion of vanadium on human health, however some studies indicate that symptoms include abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and a green colour to the tongue. Dermal contact with vanadium compounds can cause skin irritation and dermatitis. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has not designated vanadium in terms of its carcinogenicity. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has designated vanadium pentoxide as a possible carcinogen. However, exposure to vanadium at normal background levels is unlikely to have any adverse effect on human health.
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
Releases of Vanadium are controlled through the UK Pollution, Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations and the UK Surface Waters Regulations (SI 1997/2560). European Directives regulating levels of Vanadium include that concerned with pollution of the aquatic environment (76/464/EEC), the Hazardous Waste Directive, which protects groundwaters (91/689/EEC), and that concerned with combating air pollution from industrial plants (84/360/EEC).