Highly toxic contaminants like Cr, As, and Pb were detected in chrome-tanning process of animal skin to produce leather by applying locally developed laser-induced breakdown spectrometer. An Nd–YAG laser with 1,064 nm wavelength was focused on the surface of leather samples (natural and manufactured) to generate a plasma spark and spectrally resolved spectra were used for identification and quantification of contaminants. The leather samples were collected from a tannery located in industrial cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The study was carried out on fully, half manufactured (wet blue leather), and natural hide (skin). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first attempt where laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) technique has been applied for the analysis of leather before and after tanning process. The maximum concentration of different elements of environmental significance like chromium, lead, arsenic, sulfur, magnesium were 199, 289, 31, 38, and 39 ppm, respectively, in one of the manufactured leather samples. The limit of detection (LOD) of our LIBS system for chromium, lead, arsenic, sulfur, and magnesium were 2, 3, 1.5,7, and 3 ppm, respectively. The safe permissible limit for tanned leather for highly toxic elements like chromium, lead, and arsenic are 1, 0.5, 0.01 ppm, respectively, as prescribed in Environmental Regulation Standards for Saudi Industries set by Royal Commission Jubail, Saudi Arabia. The LIBS technique is superior to other conventional techniques like ICP or atomic absorption that a little or no sample preparation is required, no chemicals are needed, multi-elemental analysis is possible for all kinds of samples (natural and anthropogenic materials), microgram of sample is essential, and LIBS could be applied for remote analysis. It is highly selective and sensitivity higher than ICP, and as no sample and chemicals are required, it is cost effective for multi-sample analysis per unit time as compared with other conventional techniques. The concentration of some toxic elements (Cr, Pb, As) is much higher than the safe permissible limits set by Occupational Safety and Health Administration in USA or Saudi environmental regulatory agencies. Results obtained with our LIBS systems were in close agreement with the results obtained using other standard analytical technique such as the inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy.
Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopyChromiumLeadArsenicToxic elements detection