Rare earth elements in the Pearl River Delta of China : Potential impacts of the REE industry on water, suspended particles and oysters

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

54 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-201
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Pollution
Online published8 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


Rare earth element (REE) concentrations and patterns were measured in surface water, suspended particles (SP) and oysters from the Pearl River Estuary, China. During the rainy season of 2017, higher REE concentrations were found at the stations in the estuary (ΣREE = 0.06–0.42 μg L−1) than those at the river mouths (referred to as ‘outlet’ stations, ΣREE = 0.001–0.14 μg L−1). However, the reverse occurred in the dry season of 2016 (ΣREE = 0.07–0.16 μg L−1 in the mid-estuary vs. 0.001–0.02 μg L−1in the outlet stations). Elevated concentrations of Pr, Nd, Dy and Ho, relative to the other REEs were found in water in both seasons at most sampling locations. However, in some estuary stations, no anomalies were detected in the SP or in the oysters while some anomalies were seen in SP from the outlet stations. Significant correlations between REE concentrations in SP and oysters as well as between both total REE concentrations and the La/Yb ratio (reflecting enhanced accumulation of light REEs (LREEs)) in oysters indicate that, in the Pearl River Estuary, the dominant REE uptake pathway in oysters is from particles. The elevated concentrations of Pr, Nd, Dy and Ho, which are reported here for the first time suggest that elevated levels of these elements may result from REE recycling and other industrialized activities in this area of southern China. Specific REEs could be used to indicate emerging contamination by the modern REE industry; furthermore, REE anomalies and patterns may be suitable tools to track REE sources. Elevated concentrations of Pr, Nd, Dy and Ho, relative to other REEs, were observed for the first time in the surface water of the Pearl River Delta and the REE uptake pathway in oysters was assessed.

Research Area(s)

  • Oyster, Pearl river delta, Rare earth elements, Surface water, Suspended particles

Citation Format(s)