Coal fly ash as a source of iron in atmospheric dust

Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Feb 21;46(4):2112-20. doi: 10.1021/es204102f. Epub 2012 Feb 9.


Anthropogenic coal fly ash (FA) aerosol may represent a significant source of bioavailable iron in the open ocean. Few measurements have been made that compare the solubility of atmospheric iron from anthropogenic aerosols and other sources. We report here an investigation of iron dissolution for three FA samples in acidic aqueous solutions and compare the solubilities with that of Arizona test dust (AZTD), a reference material for mineral dust. The effects of pH, simulated cloud processing, and solar radiation on iron solubility have been explored. Similar to previously reported results on mineral dust, iron in aluminosilicate phases provides the predominant component of dissolved iron. Iron solubility of FA is substantially higher than of the crystalline minerals comprising AZTD. Simulated atmospheric processing elevates iron solubility due to significant changes in the morphology of aluminosilicate glass, a dominant material in FA particles. Iron is continuously released into the aqueous solution as FA particles break up into smaller fragments. These results suggest that the assessment of dissolved atmospheric iron deposition fluxes and their effect on the biogeochemistry at the ocean surface should be constrained by the source, environmental pH, iron speciation, and solar radiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Coal Ash / chemistry*
  • Dust / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Iron / analysis
  • Iron / chemistry*
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Solubility
  • Sunlight
  • Surface Properties


  • Coal Ash
  • Dust
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Iron