Zinc and its compounds
Pure zinc is a bluish-white shiny metal. It is brittle at ordinary temperatures and is a fairly good conductor of electricity. It melts at 420 0C.
Zinc has many commercial uses such as being used as a coating to prevent rust, in dry-cell batteries, as roof material and importantly, in many alloys such as brass and bronze. Large quantities are also used in the production of die castings. Compounds of zinc are used in industry in the manufacture of paints, plastics, rubber, dyes, wood preservatives, and cosmetics.
Most of the zinc released comes from man-made emissions due to iron and steel production, non-ferrous metal production, road transport and to a lesser extent, industrial coal burning and waste incineration. Zinc from road transport is almost entirely due to tyre wear. There is also a significant contribution to the emissions from its use as roof material. As zinc is a naturally occurring element, it is also found in rocks, soil, sediment and natural waters.
Impacts on human health and environment
Excessive exposure to zinc compounds may affect the blood, digestive system, eye, kidney, lung, pancreas, reproductive system, skin and the unborn child.
Zinc can have a significant local impact. In parts of the world where there are large deposits, zinc can get into the water supply at levels which are toxic to fish and potentially to humans. Zinc can accumulate in aquatic organisms but not in plants, and be toxic to such species and those that feed of them. High environmental exposures that can cause concern over possible harmful effects are relatively rare.
Metallic zinc and four of its compounds are priority substances (EC 2268/95, OJ L231, 28.9.95, p.18) under Regulation 793/93. The draft risk assessment reports for human health effects can be downloaded from http://ecb.jrc.it/existing-chemicals/. The risks for the environment are still under discussion by a Committee of Technical Experts representing Member States, Industry and NGOs.
Emission to air reporting threshold: 200 kg/year
Emission to water reporting threshold: 100 kg/year
Data source: European Pollutant Emission Register