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J Environ Monit. 2012 Nov;14(11):2893-901. doi: 10.1039/c2em30579h.

Lead isotopes in marine surface sediments reveal historical use of leaded fuel.

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Aarhus University, Department of Bioscience, Frederiksborgvej 399, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark.


Analyses of lead (Pb) isotopes have been performed in terrestrial and fresh water environments to estimate historical uses of leaded fuel, but so far this method has not been employed in studies of world-wide marine surface sediments. We analyzed Pb and its isotopes in 23 surface sediments from four continents collected during the Galathea 3 expedition in 2006-2007. To enhance the anthropogenic signal, a partial digestion using nitric acid was performed. The concentrations of Pb, Th, U and Al were determined with an ICP-Quadrupole MS, and Pb-isotope ratios with an ICP-multi-collector MS. The samples could be divided into three groups: Harbor areas in larger cities with concentrations of 150 to 265 mg kg(-1) dry weight, smaller towns with concentrations between 20 and 40 mg kg(-1) dry weight, and remotely located sites with concentrations below 15 mg kg(-1) dry weight. Pb-isotope ratios were compared to literature values for gasoline and local or geological background values, and the contribution of leaded-gasoline to total concentrations was calculated for contaminated sites using both a one-dimensional and a novel two-dimensional (vector) method. The North American sites had Pb-isotope ratios corresponding to the US leaded gasoline, with 24-88% of the Pb from leaded gasoline. Samples from Oceania showed Pb-isotope ratios corresponding to Australian gasoline, with 60% attributed to leaded gasoline in Sydney and 21% in Christchurch. Outside Cape Town, 15 to 46% of Pb in sediments was from leaded gasoline.

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