, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 189-203

The sedimentary record of environmental lead contamination at St. Louis, Missouri (USA) area smelters

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Southeastern Missouri has been a major Pb mining region since 1720 AD. Missouri mines produce a Pb ore that has a distinctive elevated 206Pb/207Pb isotopic ratio (>1.30) that is easily recognized in Pb-contaminated sediments. Five 210Pb dated sediment cores from Horseshoe Lake, Madison County, Illinois were examined to reconstruct Pb-contamination of the site from southeastern Missouri mines and from a local Pb smelter located adjacent to the lake. Pb concentrations increased in the cores from 5 ppm in the early 1800’s to approximately 350 ppm in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. Pb concentrations in recently deposited sediment range from 100 to 300 ppm depending on the location within the lake. Throughout the 1800’s and early 1900’s the 206Pb/207Pb ratios in the sediment cores increased indicating contamination from southeastern Missouri (mean = 1.243). After the local smelter began recycling lead-acid storage batteries in the 1950’s, the 206Pb/207Pb ratio declined (mean = 1.224) suggesting contamination of Horseshoe Lake with Pb from sources elsewhere around the world. The results of this study demonstrate how isotopic ratios of Pb can be used to reconstruct historical anthropogenic contamination.