Thallium pollution in China and removal technologies for waters: A review

Juan Liu, Xuwen Luo, Yuqing Sun, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Jianying Qi, Weilong Zhang, Nuo Li, Meiling Yin, Jin Wang, Holger Lippold, Yongheng Chen, Guodong Sheng

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

193 Citations (Scopus)


Thallium (Tl) is a typical toxic metal, which poses a great threat to human health through drinking water and the food chain (biomagnification). China has rich Tl-bearing mineral resources, which have been extensively explored and utilized, leading to release of large amounts of Tl into the environment. However, research on Tl pollution and removal techniques is relatively limited, because Tl has not been listed within the scope of environmental monitoring in China for several decades. This paper reviewed Tl pollution in wastewater arising from various industries in China, as well as the latest available methods for treating Tl-containing industrial wastewater, in order to give an outlook on effective technologies for controlling Tl pollution. Conventional physical and chemical treatment technologies are efficient at removing trace amounts of Tl, but it proved to be difficult to achieve the stringent environmental standard (≤0.1–5 μg/L) cost-effectively. Adsorption by using newly developed nanomaterials, and metal oxide modified polymer materials and microbial fuel cells are highly promising and expected to become next-generation technologies for remediation of Tl pollution. With the potential for greater Tl contamination in the environment under accelerated growth of industrialization, researches based on lab-scale implementation of such promising treatment technologies should be further expanded to pilot and industrial scale, ensuring environmental protection and the safety of drinking water for sustainable development. Comprehensive insights into experiences of Tl pollution in China and in-depth perspectives on new frontier technologies of Tl removal from wastewaters will also benefit other nations/regions worldwide, which are susceptible to high exposure to Tl likewise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-790
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironment international
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Anthropogenic source
  • Industrial wastewater treatment
  • Nanomaterials
  • Thallium pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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