Foliar surfaces as dust and aerosol pollution monitors: An assessment by a mining site

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Oct 10;790:148164. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148164. Epub 2021 Jun 1.


Recent studies in the southwestern United States have shown that smelting processes and mine tailings emit heavy metal(loid)s that are distributed via wind dispersion to nearby communities. With increased attention regarding the effect of air pollution on environmental health, communities have begun to use citizen/community-based monitoring techniques to measure the concentration of metal(loid)s and evaluate their air quality. This study was conducted in a mining community to assess the efficacy of foliar surfaces as compared to an inverted disc (frisbee) to sample aerosol pollutants in ambient air. The assessment was conducted by evaluating As, Pb, Cd, Cu, Al, Ni, and Zn concentrations versus distance from a former smelter, statistical and regression analyses, and enrichment factor calculations compared to similar sites worldwide. Both the foliar and frisbee collection methods had a decrease in metal(loid)s concentration as a function of distance from the retired smelter. Statistical calculations show that the collection methods had similar mean concentrations for all of the metal(loid)s of interest; however, the tests also indicate that the frisbee collection method generally collected more dust than the foliar method. The enrichment factors from both collection methods were comparable to similar studies by other mining areas referenced, except for aluminum. Since there is evidence of enrichment, correlation between methods, and citizen/community science potential, these efforts show promise for the field. Further studies should consider alternating the types of plant used for foliar collection as well as collecting samples on a more frequent basis in order to sufficiently categorize results based on meteorological conditions.

Keywords: Aerosol; Air monitor; Foliar; Fugitive dust; Mining; co-created citizen science.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Dust / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Metals, Heavy* / analysis
  • Mining
  • Soil Pollutants* / analysis


  • Aerosols
  • Dust
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil Pollutants