Assessment of the Spatial Distribution of Metal(Oid)s in Soils Around an Abandoned Pb-Smelter Plant
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- dos Santos, N.M., do Nascimento, C.W.A., Matschullat, J. et al. Environmental Management (2017) 59: 522. doi:10.1007/s00267-016-0796-x
Todos os Santos (All Saints) Bay area, NE-Brazil, is known for one of the most important cases of urban lead (Pb) contamination in the world. The main objective of this work was to assess and interpret the spatial distribution of As, Cd, Hg, Pb, and Zn in “background” soils of this environmentally impacted bay area, using a combination of geostatistical and multivariate analytical methods to distinguish between natural and anthropogenic sources of those metal(oid)s in soils. We collected 114 topsoil samples (0.0–0.2 m depth) from 38 sites. The median values for trace metal concentrations in soils (mg kg−1) followed the order Pb (33.9) > Zn (8.8) > As (1.2) > Cd (0.2) > Hg (0.07), clearly reflecting a Pb-contamination issue. Principal component analysis linked Cd, Pb, and Zn to the same factor (F1), chiefly corroborating their anthropogenic origin; yet, both Pb and Zn are also influenced by natural lithogenic sources. Arsenic and Hg concentrations (F2) are likely related to the natural component alone; their parent material (igneous–metamorphic rocks) seemingly confirm this hypothesis. The heterogeneity of sources and the complexity of the spatial distribution of metals in large areas such as the Todos os Santos Bay warrant, the importance of multivariate and geostatistical analyses in the interpretation of environmental data.