THE EFFECTS OF NATURAL ZEOLITE ON CHEMICAL SPILLS
The presence of heavy metals in the environment is of significant concern due to their toxicity to humans, animals, and plants. The application of natural zeolites for water treatment is a promising technique in the environmental cleaning process (Wang & Peng, 2010). The utilization of natural zeolites has focused on the removal of ammonium and heavy metals through ion exchange.
The ion-exchange properties of zeolites allow them to trap undesirable metals and prevent them from entering ecosystems and the food chain (Mumpton, 1985). Studies report that pulverized zeolites, particularly clinoptilolite, reduce the transfer of heavy metals, such as copper, lead, and zinc from soils to plants (Mumpton, 1985).
Zeolite works as a successful chemical absorbent due to its ability to absorb liquids and gases. These properties not only promote safety at home, they also prevent costly damage by preventing water and chemicals from seeping into pores in concrete, brick, and stone. It is also ideal for surfaces that are weathered as liquid will be absorbed from grooves and pits.
Natural zeolite can successfully absorb spills of oil, fuel, coolants, paints, degreaser, and mild acid. In addition, it eliminates odors and toxic vapors caused by spills on contact. Also, zeolite has a strong framework and unlike clay products, does not break down when saturated.
Because of the size, structure, and weight of zeolite, it can be used outdoors in windy or draught conditions. Unlike lightweight clay products that are easily blown away, zeolite remains in contact with chemicals while spills are addressed.
A study by Fullen et al. (2011) examined the remediation of oil spills using natural zeolite. Various sand- clinoptilolite mixes were tested in terms of their ability to adsorb engine oil. Adsorption increased with clinoptilolite amount. Researchers also found that it was possible to burn the oil-sand-zeolite mix and reuse the ignited mix for further oil adsorption. The findings indicated that sand-zeolite mixes can effectively adsorb terrestrial oil spills and remediate oil-contaminated soils (Fullen et al., 2011).