Content, mineral allocation and leaching behavior of heavy metals in urban PM2.5

Simona Mazziotti Tagliani, Monica Carnevale, Giovanna Armiento, Maria Rita Montereali, Elisa Nardi, Marco Inglessis, Fabrizio Sacco, Simonetta Palleschi, Barbara Rossi, Leopoldo Silvestroni, Antonio Gianfagna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To clarify the relationship between airborne particulate exposure and negative impacts on human health, focusing on the heavy metal content alone might not be sufficient. To address this issue, in the present work, mineral allocation and leaching behavior of heavy metals in the PM2.5were investigated. This work, therefore, provides a novel perspective in the field of urban airborne particle investigation that is not currently found in the literature. Four sampling campaigns were performed in the urban area of Rome (Central Italy) during the winter and summer seasons (February and July 2013 and 2014, respectively). The measured concentrations of the regulated elements of As, Cd, Ni and Pb were consistent with those reported by the local Environmental Agency (ARPA Lazio), but non-regulated heavy metals, including Fe, Cu, Cr and Zn, were also found in PM2.5and analyzed in detail. As a novelty, heavy metals were associated with the host-identified mineral phases, primarily oxides and alloys, and to a lesser extent, other minerals, such as sulfates, carbonates and silicates. Leaching tests of the collected samples were conducted in a buffered solution mimicking the bodily physiological environment. Despite the highest concentration of heavy metals found during the winter sampling period, all of the elements showed a leaching trend leading to major mobility during the summer period. To explain this result, an interesting comparative analysis between the leaching test behavior and innovative mineral allocation was conducted. Both the heavy metal content and mineral allocation in PM2.5might contribute to the bioavailability of toxic elements in the pulmonary environment. Hence, for regulatory purposes, the non-linear dependency of heavy metal bioavailability on the total metal content should be taken into account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-60
Number of pages14
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Bioavailability
  • Heavy metals
  • Mineral allocation
  • PM
  • Rome urban area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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