Date: 05 Dec 2007

Availability and Bioaccessibility of Metals in Fine Particles of Some Urban Soils

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Abstract

Metals in urban soils might be transferred to humans via ingestion, dermal contact, or breathing, especially to children due to the “hand to mouth” activity during outdoor activities in playground and recreational areas. This involuntary soil ingestion depends on soil adherence to skin; it is known that the adhesion process tends to exclude particles greater than 50 μm, so the fraction below this diameter would be the most dangerous for health. The aim of this work was to study the “availability”, estimated by the EDTA extraction, and “oral bioaccessibility”, estimated by the Simple Bioaccessibility Extraction Test (SBET), of several metals in urban soils of two European cities (Sevilla and Torino), as related to the soil particle size distribution. Torino and Sevilla showed different levels of metal contents, availability, and bioaccessibility. In Torino, the finer particles showed metal enrichment of Cu, Zn, and, to a lesser extent, Pb, whereas in Sevilla, all of the studied metals showed this enrichment compared to the whole soils. The whole soil cannot be used as a good general indicator of the bioaccessibility of metals in the finest fractions of the soil. Metal availability was higher in the clay fraction (<2 μm) than in other fractions or whole soils in both cities, and principal component analysis shows that availability is especially due to this fraction. In contrast, Cu and Pb bioaccessibility in the clay fraction seems to be slightly lower than, or comparable to, all of the other fractions and the whole soil. Bioaccessibility of Cr and Ni is clearly greater in the coarser fractions of Sevilla than those of Torino, despite the considerably greater total contents of both metals in the latter city. Adsorbed metal forms are assumed to be preferentially responsible for metals released by EDTA. A different origin is attributed to bioaccessible metal forms. Anthropic influence seems more important in determining metal availability and bioaccessibility in urban soils of both cities than the different geological or industrial characteristics.