Mapping airborne lead contamination near a metals smelter in Derbyshire, UK: spatial variation of Pb concentration and 'enrichment factor' for tree bark

J Environ Monit. 2001 Oct;3(5):512-4. doi: 10.1039/b106835k.


Samples of tree bark, collected over an area of 4 km2 near a small non-ferrous metals smelter in Derbyshire, UK, were analysed for Pb and Al by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES). Analyte concentrations varied from 100 to over 25,000 mg kg-1 and 5 to 1000 mg kg-1, respectively. While an inverse relationship between the Pb content of bark and distance from the smelter was observed, concentrations fluctuated, indicating a variability in sample collection efficiency and problems in standardization. To overcome these effects, the Pb/Al ratio was calculated and subsequently normalized to the average Pb/Al ratio in continental crust (0.00015). On the assumption that the time-averaged concentration of airborne Al in this area is relatively constant and derived principally from wind-blown soil, the measurement represents an anthropogenic 'enrichment factor' (PbEF). PbEF varied from 10,000 to over 1,000,000, and showed a consistent reduction with distance from the smelter. Isolines of equal PbEF were subsequently defined on a map of the sampled area. Pb contamination was greatest in the vicinity of the smelter, and preferential transport along the NW-SE axis of the valley (in which the smelter is situated) was observed. The use of enrichment factors thus proved valuable in defining the relative level of airborne-derived Pb pollution.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Geography
  • Industry
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Plant Bark / chemistry*
  • Spectrum Analysis
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Trees


  • Air Pollutants
  • Lead