Heavy metal concentrations in particle size fractions from street dust of Murcia (Spain) as the basis for risk assessment
Street dust has been sampled from six different types of land use of the city of Murcia (Spain). The samples were fractionated into eleven particle size fractions (<2, 2–10, 10–20, 20–50, 50–75, 75–106, 106–150, 150–180, 180–425, 425–850 μm and 850–2000 μm) and analyzed for Pb, Cu, Zn and Cd. The concentrations of these four potentially toxic metals were assessed, as well as the effect of particle size on their distribution. A severe enrichment of all metals was observed for all land-uses (industrial, suburban, urban and highways), with the concentration of all metals affected by the type of land-use. Coarse and fine particles in all cases showed concentrations of metals higher than those found in undisturbed areas. However, the results indicated a preferential partitioning of metals in fine particle size fractions in all cases, following a logarithmic distribution. The accumulation in the fine fractions was higher when the metals had an anthropogenic origin. The strong overrepresentation of metals in particles <10 μm indicates that if the finest fractions are removed by a vacuum-assisted dry sweeper or a regenerative-air sweeper the risk of metal dispersion and its consequent risk for humans will be highly reduced. Therefore, we recommend that risk assessment programs include monitoring of metal concentrations in dust where each land-use is separately evaluated. The finest particle fractions should be examined explicitly in order to apply the most efficient measures for reducing the risk of inhalation and ingestion of dust for humans and risk for the environment.