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J Environ Monit. 2012 Mar;14(3):839-44. doi: 10.1039/c2em10740f. Epub 2012 Jan 16.

Differences in metal concentration by particle size in house dust and soil.

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Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, University of Arizona, 1295 N Martin Ave., PO Box 245210, Tucson, USA.


The majority of particles that adhere to hands are <63 μm in diameter yet risk assessments for soil remediation are typically based on soil samples sieved to <250 μm. The objective of our study was to determine if there is a significant difference in metal concentration by particle size in both house dust and soil. We obtained indoor dust and yard soil samples from 10 houses in Tucson, Arizona. All samples were sieved to <63 μm and 63 to <150 μm and analyzed for 30 elements via ICP-MS following nitric acid digestion. We conducted t-tests of the log-transformed data to assess for significant differences that were adjusted with a Bonferroni correction to account for multiple comparisons. In house dust, significant differences in concentration were observed for Be, Al, and Mo between particles sizes, with a higher concentration observed in the smaller particle sizes. Significant differences were also determined for Mg, Ca, Cr, Co, Cu, Ge, Zr, Ag, Ba, and Pb concentration in yard soil samples, with the higher concentration observed in the smaller particles size for each element. The results of this exploratory study indicate that current risk assessment practices for soil remediation may under estimate non-dietary ingestion exposure. This is of particular concern for young children who are more vulnerable to this exposure route due to their high hand mouthing frequencies. Additional studies with a greater number of samples and wider geographic distribution with different climates and soil types should be completed to determine the most relevant sampling practices for risk assessment.

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