One-century sedimentary record of heavy metal pollution in western Taihu Lake, China

Environ Pollut. 2018 Sep;240:709-716. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2018.05.006. Epub 2018 May 16.


Long-term trends of sediment compositions are important for assessing the impact of human activities on the sediment and protecting the sediment environment. In this study, based on the contents of heavy metals and the Pb isotope ratios in lake sediments, atmospheric dustfall and soil in Yixing, China, the representative heavy metals (Zn, Pb, Cr and Cd) in lake sediments from western Taihu Lake were studied. The evolution history of heavy metals in the local environment was constructed for the past 100 years. From 1892 to the 1990s, the anthropogenic fluxes of the representative heavy metals were negligible, indicating minimal anthropogenic emissions of heavy metals. Since the 1990s, anthropogenic fluxes of the representative heavy metals began to increase, concurrent with the economic growth and development in the western Taihu Lake Basin after the Chinese economic reform. The maximum flux percentage of the heavy metals in the sediments, caused by human activities, is 23.0% for Zn, 31.6% for Pb, 39.5% for Cr and 85.3% for Cd, indicating that most of the Cd comes from human activities. The Cd content in the western Taihu Lake Basin was significantly higher than that in the other areas, and the rapid development of the industry in the western Taihu Lake Basin and ceramics in Yixing led to the enrichment of heavy metals in local sediments. Since the 21st century, measures have been taken to control the pollution of heavy metals, including the increase in local government attention and the deployment of environmental monitoring technology. However, heavy metal content remains high, and the Pb content is still increasing. The ratios of Pb isotopes show that the main sources of heavy metals in the western Taihu Lake sediments, the local soil of Yixing and the atmospheric dustfall are coal combustion, leaded gasoline combustion, industrial wastewater and domestic sewage.

Keywords: Anthropogenic flux; Heavy metal; Lead isotopes; Sediment core; Taihu lake.

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Environmental Pollution / analysis*
  • Geologic Sediments / analysis*
  • Lakes / chemistry*
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Sewage / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Sewage
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical