Exposure to airborne particulates containing low concentrations of heavy metals, such as Pb, As, and Se, may have serious health effects. However, little is known about the speciation and particle size of these airborne metals. Fine- and ultrafine particles with heavy metals in aerosol samples from the Detroit urban area, Michigan, were examined in detail to investigate metal concentrations and speciation. The characterization of individual particles was completed using high-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy (HAADF-STEM) combined with conventional high-resolution TEM techniques. The trace elements, Pb, As, La, Ce, Sr, Zn, Cr, Se, Sn, Y, Zr, Au, and Ag, were detected, and the elemental distributions were mapped in situ at the nanoscale. The crystal structures of the particles containing Pb, Sr, Zn, and Au were determined from their electron diffraction patterns. Based on the characterization of the representative trace element particles, the potential health effects are discussed. Most of the trace element particles detected in this study were within a range of 0.01-1.0 μm in size, which has the longest atmospheric residence time (∼100 days). Increased chemical reactivity owing to the size of nanoparticles may be expected for most of the trace metal particles observed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry