Potentially toxic elements in urban soils: source apportionment and contamination assessment

Soroush Modabberi, Mahsa Tashakkor, Neda Sharifi Soltani, Andrew S. Hursthouse

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)


    Soils play a vital role in the quality of the urban environment and the health of its residents. City soils and street dusts accumulate various contaminants and particularly potentially toxic elements (PTEs) from a variety of human activities. This study investigates the current condition of elemental concentration in the urban soils of Hamedan, the largest and the fastest-growing city in western Iran. Thirty-four composite soil samples were collected from 0 to 10 cm topsoil of various land uses in Hamedan city and were analyzed for total concentration of 63 elements by ICP-MS. The possible sources of elemental loadings were verified using multivariate statistical methods (principal component analysis and cluster analysis) and geochemical indices. The spatial variability of the main PTEs was mapped using geographic information system (GIS) technique. The results revealed a concentration for As, Co, Cr, Mn, Mo, Ni, and V in the soil samples comparable to the background values as well as a range of associations among these elements in a single component suggesting geogenic sources related to geological and pedogenic processes, while the soils mostly presented a moderate to considerable enrichment/contamination of Cd, Zn, Pb, and Sb and moderate enrichment/contamination of Cu, Zn, and Mo. It was found that anthropogenic factors, vehicular traffic in particular, control the concentration of a spectrum of elements that are typical of human activities, i.e., Cd, Cu, Hg, Pb, Sb, and Zn. Lead and Sb were both the most enriched elements in soils with no correlation with land use highlighting general urban emissions over time and the impact of transport networks directly on soil quality. The highest concentrations of As were recorded in the southern part of the city reflecting the influence of metamorphic rocks. The effect of the geological substrate on the Co and Ni contents was confirmed by their maximum concentrations in the city’s marginal areas. However, high spatial variability of urban elements’ contents displayed the contribution of various human activities. In particular, the increased concentration of Cd, Sb, and Pb was found to be consistent with the areas where vehicular traffic is heaviest.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number715
    Pages (from-to)1-18
    Number of pages18
    JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
    Issue number12
    Early online date12 Nov 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


    • Urban geochemistry
    • Soil contamination
    • Environmental geochemistry
    • Multivariate statistics
    • Enrichment factor
    • Contamination factor


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