Published: Thu, October 12, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

$2 million-dollar-worth of gold ends up in Switzerland's sewage annually

$2 million-dollar-worth of gold ends up in Switzerland's sewage annually

Scientists reported that about millions of dollars worth of gold and silver float through Switzerland's sewer systems every year.

Trace elements are increasingly widely used in the high-tech and medical sectors - for example, the transition metal tantalum and the semimetal germanium in electronic components, niobium and titanium in alloys and coatings, or gadolinium as a contrast medium and in luminous paints.

This isn't the first time major metals have been detected in sewage sludge.

That's over $2.25 million in gold and $2.12 million in silver, researchers report. In the southern Ticino region of Switzerland, home to many of its refineries, the "concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile", the scientists said.

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A national research institute took samples from pipelines and water treatment plants, and concluded that the Swiss are throwing 40 kilograms of gold annually.

The discovery was made after researchers studied 64 water treatment plants in Switzerland.

Other rare earth metals, like gadolinium and heavy meal niobium, were also found in the Swiss wastewater, the report details.

Switzerland is one of the world's major gold refining hubs with about 70 percent of world's gold passing through it every year and four major gold refineries of the world being present on Swiss soil. However, all analysis came within safe limits, although the EAWAG have warned that little is known as yet about the potential toxicological effects of many trace elements.

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