There isn't enough wasted metal in the system to pose an environmental risk, but there is enough to make spelunking through Switzerland's underground waterways seem like a worthwhile use of time.
It is interesting to note the per capita fluxes calculated for the Swiss population on the basis of the element concentrations measured.
Moreover, the same research team discovered that in this particular area where most manufacturers established their headquarters and shops, the amount of gold was so significant, they could collect it. "This can be attributed to the presence of several gold refineries in the region", the EAWAG said in a statement.
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It is the first such study where trace elements were surveyed in wastewater for an industrialised country.
Researchers sample the wastewater at Werdhölzli treatment plant in Zurich.
Swiss wastewater is worth its weight in gold - literally.
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Scientists had originally feared a repeat of the critical concentrations of rare earth metals lanthanum and samarium now found in the Rhine.
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. Elevated concentrations in effluents or sludge were only found at a few sites in the case of the heavy metals copper and zinc. 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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