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Environ Sci Technol. 2004 Feb 15;38(4):957-64.

Post-17th-century changes of European lead emissions recorded in high-altitude alpine snow and ice.

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Paul Scherrer Institut, CH-5232 Villigen-PSI, Switzerland.


Lead concentrations and lead isotope ratios were analyzed in two firn/ice cores covering the period from 1650 to 1994, which were obtained from the 4450 m high glacier saddle Colle Gnifetti located in the Monte Rosa massif at the Swiss-Italian border. This study presents the first glaciochemical time series with annual resolution, spanning several centuries of lead concentrations and lead isotopic compositions in precipitation in Europe. Lead concentrations in firn dated from the 1970s are approximately 25 times higher than in ice dated from the 17th century, confirming the massive rise in lead pollution in Europe during the last few centuries. A decline of the lead concentration is then observed during the last two decades, i.e., from 1975 to 1994. The lead isotope ratio 206Pb/207Pb decreased from about 1.18 in the 17th and 18th centuries to about 1.12 in the 1970s. These variations are in good agreement with available information on variations in anthropogenic lead emissions from West European countries, especially from the use of lead additives in gasoline.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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