Environmental arsenic, cadmium and lead dust emissions from metal mine operations

Implications for environmental management, monitoring and human health

Mark Patrick Taylor*, Simon Anthony Mould, Louise Jane Kristensen, Marek Rouillon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Citations (Scopus)


Although blood lead values in children are predominantly falling globally, there are locations where lead exposure remains a persistent problem. One such location is Broken Hill, Australia, where the percentage of blood lead values >10μg/dL in children aged 1-4 years has risen from 12.6% (2010), to 13% (2011) to 21% (2012). The purpose of this study was to determine the extent of metal contamination in places accessible to children. This study examines contemporary exposure risks from arsenic, cadmium, lead, silver and zinc in surface soil and dust, and in pre- and post-play hand wipes at six playgrounds across Broken Hill over a 5-day period in September 2013. Soil lead (mean 2,450mg/kg) and zinc (mean 3,710mg/kg) were the most elevated metals in playgrounds. Surface dust lead concentrations were consistently elevated (mean 27,500μg/m2) with the highest lead in surface dust (59,900μg/m2) and post-play hand wipes (60,900μg/m2) recorded close to existing mining operations. Surface and post-play hand wipe dust values exceeded national guidelines for lead and international benchmarks for arsenic, cadmium and lead. Lead isotopic compositions (206Pb/207Pb, 208Pb/207Pb) of surface dust wipes from the playgrounds revealed the source of lead contamination to be indistinct from the local Broken Hill ore body. The data suggest frequent, cumulative and ongoing mine-derived dust metal contamination poses a serious risk of harm to children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-303
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Dust deposition
  • Health
  • Lead

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