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Sci Total Environ. 2011 Dec 15;412-413:170-84. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.09.065. Epub 2011 Nov 1.

Influence of source distribution and geochemical composition of aerosols on children exposure in the large polymetallic mining region of the Bolivian Altiplano.

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Université de Toulouse; IRD; CNRS; GET; F-31400 Toulouse, France.


The Bolivian Altiplano (Highlands) region is subject to intense mining, tailing and smelting activities since centuries because of the presence of large and unique polymetallic ore deposits (Ag, Au, Cu, Pb, Sn, Sb, Zn). A large scale PM(10), PM(2.5) aerosol monitoring survey was conducted during the dry season in one of the largest mining cities of this region (Oruro, 200,000 inhabitants). Aerosol fractions, source distribution and transport were investigated for 23 elements at approximately 1 km(2) scale resolution, and compared to children exposure data obtained within the same geographical space. As, Cd, Pb, Sb, W and Zn in aerosols are present at relatively high concentrations when compared to studies from other mining regions. Arsenic exceeds the European council PM(10) guide value (6 ng/m(3)) for 90% of the samples, topping 200 ng/m(3). Ag, As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Sb are present at significantly higher levels in the district located in the vicinity of the smelter zone. At the city level, principal component analysis combined with the mapping of factor scores allowed the identification and deconvolution of four individual sources: i) a natural magmatic source (Co, Cs, Fe, K, Mn, Na, Rb and U) originating from soil dust, resuspended by the traffic activity; ii) a natural sedimentary source (Mg, Ca, Sr, Ba and Th) resulting from the suspension of evaporative salt deposits located South; iii) an anthropogenic source specifically enriched in mined elements (As, Cd, Cu, Pb, Sb and Zn) mainly in the smelting district of the city; and iv) a Ni-Cr source homogenously distributed between the different city districts. Enrichment factors for As, Cd and Sb clearly show the impact of smelting activities, particularly in the finest PM(2.5) fraction. Comparison to children's hair metal contents collected in five schools from different districts shows a direct exposure to smelting activity fingerprinted by a unique trace elements pattern (Ag, As, Cu, Pb, Sb).

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