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Increases in Anthropogenic Gadolinium Anomalies and Rare Earth Element Concentrations in San Francisco Bay over a 20 Year Record. Environ. Sci. Technol. 50 (8).2016.
We evaluated both the spatial distribution of gadolinium (Gd) and other rare earth elements (REE) in surface waters collected in a transect of San Francisco Bay (SFB) and their temporal variations within the Bay over two decades. The REE were preconcentrated using the NOBIAS PA-1 resin prior to analysis by high-resolution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Measurements revealed a temporal increase in the Gd anomaly in SFB from the early 1990s to the present. The highest Gd anomalies were observed in the southern reach of SFB, which is surrounded by several hospitals and research centers that use Gd-based contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging. Recent increases in that usage presumably contributed to the order of magnitude increase in anthropogenic Gd concentrations in SFB, from 8.27 to 112 pmol kg–1 over the past two decades, and reach the northeast Pacific coastal waters. These measurements (i) show that “exotic” trace elements used in new high-tech applications, such as Gd, are emerging contaminants in San Francisco Bay and that anthropogenic Gd concentrations increased substantially over a 20 year period; (ii) substantiate proposals that REE may be used as tracers of wastewater discharges and hydrological processes; and (iii) suggest that new public policies and the development of more effective treatment technologies may be necessary to control sources and minimize future contamination by REE that are critical for the development of new technologies, which now overwhelm natural REE anomalies.