Safety Concerns Over Tungsten Accumulation in Bone

03/08/2018

In mice exposed to tungsten through drinking water, the element accumulated in porous tissue near the ends of bones (left). Using synchrotron-based X-ray absorption techniques, researchers produced an image (center) mapping the presence of tungsten in a form resembling the chemical catalyst phosphotungstate (P=phosphorus, W= tungsten, O=oxygen). [Reprinted under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license from VanderSchee, C. R., et al. 2018. “Accumulation of persistent tungsten in bone as in situ generated polytungstate.” Communications Chemistry, 1(8). DOI:10.1038/s42004-017-0007-6.]

New research shows how and where tungsten, which has been associated with childhood lymphocytic leukemia, accumulates in the bones of mice exposed to the element through drinking water. X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy showed that tungsten accumulated in bone tissue, with some sites having around 10-fold greater intensities than background levels. The findings raise doubts over the once-universal assumption that tungsten poses little or no health risk to the general human population.

References

VanderSchee, C.R., Kuter, D., Bolt, A.M. et al. “Accumulation of persistent tungsten in bone as in situ generated polytungstate.” Commun Chem 1, 8 (2018). [DOI: 10.1038/s42004-017-0007-6]