A multi-element profile of housedust in relation to exterior dust and soils in the city of Ottawa, Canada

Sci Total Environ. 2001 Feb 21;267(1-3):125-40. doi: 10.1016/s0048-9697(00)00775-0.


This paper presents multi-element profiles of indoor dust versus exterior soils and dusts from 50 residences located in 10 neighborhoods across Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. Mercury concentrations were determined using nitric-sulphuric acid digestion and cold vapor AAS. Concentrations of 31 other elements were determined using nitric-hydrofluoric acid digestion and ICP-MS. Comparisons of household dust, garden soil and street dust at the individual residence scale and at the community scale were based on a consistent 100-250-microm particle size fraction. Results showed housedust samples to contain significantly higher concentrations of many key elements, including lead, cadmium, antimony and mercury, than either street dust or garden soil samples. Also, housedust profiles revealed a distinct multi-element signature in relation to exterior dust and soil samples. Interestingly, garden soil contained higher concentrations of aluminum, barium and thallium than either house or street dust. Geometric mean concentrations (mg/kg) of these elements in household dust/garden soil were: lead 233/42; cadmium 4.42/0.27; antimony 5.54/0.25; mercury 1.728/0.055; aluminum 24281/55677; barium 454/763; and thallium 0.14/0.29. Street dust contained lower geometric mean concentrations than garden soil for 23 out of a total of 32 elements. In general, indoor/outdoor concentration ratios varied widely from one element to another, and from one residence to another within the community. In the case of Ottawa, which is a city with a low concentration of heavy industries, it would be difficult-to-impossible to accurately predict indoor dust concentrations based on exterior soil data. It is concluded that dust generated from sources within the house itself can contribute significantly to exposures to certain elements, such as lead, cadmium, antimony and mercury.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Dust / analysis*
  • Elements*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic
  • Urban Population*


  • Dust
  • Elements
  • Soil Pollutants