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In order to assess the contribution to plants and soils of certain elements emitted by phosphate processing, we sampled sagebrush, grasses, and A- and C-horizon soils along upwind and downwind transects at Pocatello and Soda Springs, Idaho. Analyses for 70 elements in plants showed that, statistically, the concentration of 7 environmentally important elements, cadmium, chromium, fluorine, selenium, uranium, vanadium, and zinc, were related to emissions from phosphate-processing operations. Two additional elements, lithium and nickel, show probable relationships. The literature on the effects of these elements on plant and animal health is briefly surveyed. Relations between element content in plants and distance from the phosphate-processing operations were stronger at Soda Springs than at Pocatello and, in general, stronger in sagebrush than in the grasses. Analyses for 58 elements in soils showed that, statistically, beryllium, fluorine, iron, lead, lithium, potassium, rubidium, thorium, and zinc were related to emissions only at Pocatello and only in the A horizon. Moreover, six additional elements, copper, mercury, nickel, titanium, uranium, and vanadium, probably are similarly related along the same transect. The approximate amounts of elements added to the soils by the emissions are estimated. In C-horizon soils, no statistically significant relations were observed between element concentrations and distance from the processing sites. At Soda Springs, the nonuniformity of soils at the sampling locations may have obscured the relationship between soil-element content and emissions from phosphate processing.
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Environmental implications of element emissions from phosphate-processing operations in southeastern Idaho