Heavy metal: a misused term?

  title={Heavy metal: a misused term?},
  author={Olivier Pourret and Jean-Claude Bollinger and Andrew S. Hursthouse},
  journal={Acta Geochimica},
The use of the term “heavy metal” is regularly questioned by the scientific community. Here, we followed the evolution (1970–2020) in the number of published papers including this term in their title. Thus, we can evidence a continuous, albeit sometimes stabilizing, increase especially in environmental journals. After several other warning opinions, we propose that it should be replaced in the scientific literature by terms like “metal”, “metalloid”, “trace metal elements” or “potentially toxic… 

Potentially toxic elements in groundwater: a hotspot research topic in environmental science and pollution research

  • P. Papazotos
  • Environmental Science
    Environmental Science and Pollution Research
  • 2021
A scientometric analysis based on the Scopus database was conducted to provide insight into research activities on the occurrence of potentially toxic elements (PTEs) in groundwater during 1970–2019, and according to the analysis, the USA and China are the two principal countries with the most considerable contribution.

Toxicological evaluation of feeds with different levels of heavy metals using luminescent microorganisms Photobacterium рhosphoreum

Assessment of the toxicity of pollutants is an integral part of the quality and safety control of the animal feed. Today, when determining the toxicity of a particular substance, alternative methods

An Assessment of the Metal Removal Capability of Endemic Chilean Species

In Chile, there are several abandoned mine tailing impoundments near population centers that need to be remediated. In this study, the ability of Oxalis gigantea, Cistanthe grandiflora, and Puya

Assessment of the Ecotoxicity of Pollution by Potentially Toxic Elements by Biological Indicators of Haplic Chernozem of Southern Russia (Rostov region)

The aim of the work was to rank metals, metalloids, and nonmetals by ecotoxicity in Haplic Chernozem and to use the results of the study for predictive assessment of the impact of metals, meetalloid, andNonmetals on the ecological state of the soil during pollution.

Assessment of heavy metal contamination of an electrolytic manganese metal industrial estate in northern China from an integrated chemical and magnetic investigation.

Heavy metal concentrations (Al, V, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, and Pb) and the magnetic properties of soil and sediment samples in/around an electrolytic manganese metal (EMM) industrial estate in

The role of microplastics biofilm in accumulation of trace metals in aquatic environments.

Microplastics are one of the major contaminants of aquatic nature where they can interact with organic and inorganic pollutants, including trace metals, and adsorb them. At the same time, after the

Effect of Biochar on Metal Distribution and Microbiome Dynamic of a Phytostabilized Metalloid-Contaminated Soil Following Freeze–Thaw Cycles

In the present paper the effectiveness of biochar-aided phytostabilization of metal/metalloid-contaminated soil under freezing–thawing conditions and using the metal tolerating test plant Lolium

Influence of the Canopy Drip Effect on the Accumulation of Atmospheric Metal and Nitrogen Deposition in Mosses

Wet, dry, and occult atmospheric deposition may be modified by vegetation canopies. The aim of this study was to verify canopy drip effect studies conducted in 2012, in 2013, and in 2015/2016. For

Biochar-Assisted Phytostabilization for Potentially Toxic Element Immobilization

In response to the growing threat to the quality of the soil environment, new technologies are being developed to protect and remediate contaminated sites. A new approach, namely, assisted



It’s Time to Replace the Term “Heavy Metals” with “Potentially Toxic Elements” When Reporting Environmental Research

  • O. PourretA. Hursthouse
  • Environmental Science
    International journal of environmental research and public health
  • 2019
The relevance of the use of the term “Potentially Toxic Element(s)”, which needs more explicit endorsement, is highlighted, and the chemical elements that need to be considered are illustrated.

"Heavy metal" - What to do now: To use or not to use?

What are heavy metals? Long-standing controversy over the scientific use of the term ‘heavy metals’ – proposal of a comprehensive definition

ABSTRACT The term ‘heavy metals’ is commonly used in the environmental literature to refer to metals and metalloids associated with environmental pollution, toxicity and adverse effects on biota. The

"Heavy metals" a meaningless term? (IUPAC Technical Report)

  • J. Duffus
  • Chemistry
    Chemistry International
  • 2002
Abstract Over the past two decades, the term "heavy metals" has been widely used. It is often used as a group name for metals and semimetals (metalloids) that have been associated with contamination

“Heavy metal”—a useful term

  • G. Batley
  • Environmental Science
    Integrated environmental assessment and management
  • 2012
DEAR SIR: Recently I became aware that the editor of Learned Discourses has a personal campaign for the abolition of the term ‘‘heavy metal.’’ As a long-time researcher of the environmental chemistry

Heavy metals--geochemical bogey men?

What are “heavy metals” in Plant Sciences?

  • K. Appenroth
  • Environmental Science
    Acta Physiologiae Plantarum
  • 2009
Plants do not have the ability to sense physical properties of metals, e.g. specific weight. The term “heavy metal” was defined mainly by the specific weight of metals. The definition was often

On the Necessity of Banning the Term “Heavy Metal” from the Scientific Literature


“Heavy metal”—cacophony, not symphony

  • P. Chapman
  • Geology
    Integrated environmental assessment and management
  • 2012
The term ‘‘heavy metal’’ is too imprecise for scientific use, it has caused confusion, and all metals, metalloids, and nonmetals are of potential environmental concern and focusing on heavy metals, defined however one wants, can cause us to ignore other inorganic contaminants that may be of greater concern.