Re-suspension of lead contaminated urban soil as a dominant source of atmospheric lead in Birmingham, Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh, USA

Mark A S Laidlaw, Sammy Zahran, Howard W. Mielke*, Mark P. Taylor, Gabriel M. Filippelli

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    80 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Soils in older areas of cities are highly contaminated by lead, due largely to past use of lead additives in gasoline, the use of lead in exterior paints, and industrial lead sources. Soils are not passive repositories and periodic re-suspension of fine lead contaminated soil dust particulates (or aerosols) may create seasonal variations of lead exposure for urban dwellers. Atmospheric soil and lead aerosol data from the Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) database were obtained for Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), Detroit (Michigan), Chicago (Illinois), and Birmingham (Alabama), USA. In this study the temporal variations of atmospheric soil and lead aerosols in these four US cities were examined to determine whether re-suspended lead contaminated urban soil was the dominant source of atmospheric lead. Soil and lead-in-air concentrations were examined to ascertain whether lead aerosols follow seasonal patterns with highest concentrations during the summer and/or autumn. In addition, atmospheric soil and lead aerosol concentrations on weekends and Federal Government holidays were compared to weekdays to evaluate the possibility that automotive turbulence results in re-suspension of lead contaminated urban soil. The results show that the natural logs of atmospheric soil and lead aerosols were associated in Pittsburgh from April 2004 to July 2005 (R 2=0.31, p<0.01), Detroit from November 2003 to July 2005 (R 2=0.49, p<0.01), Chicago from November 2003 to August 2005 (R 2=0.32, p< 0.01), and Birmingham from May 2004 to December 2006 (R 2=0.47, p<0.01). Atmospheric soil and lead aerosols followed seasonal patterns with highest concentrations during the summer and/or autumn. Atmospheric soil and lead aerosols are 3.15 and 3.12 times higher, respectively, during weekdays than weekends and Federal Government holidays, suggesting that automotive traffic turbulence plays a significant role in re-suspension of contaminated roadside soils and dusts. In order to decrease urban lead aerosol concentrations, lead deposition and subsequent children's seasonal exposure, lead contaminated urban soils need remediation or isolation because the legacy of lead continues to pose unnecessary and preventable health risks to urban dwellers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)302-310
    Number of pages9
    JournalAtmospheric Environment
    Volume49
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

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