Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 375–391 | Cite as

Heavy Metal Contamination and Distribution in the Urban Environment of Guangzhou, SE China

  • N.S. Duzgoren-Aydin
  • C.S.C. Wong
  • A. Aydin
  • Z. Song
  • M. You
  • X.D. Li


Ever-increasing heavy metal accumulation in the urban environment of Guangzhou, the largest light industrial production base and one of the most rapidly developing cities in China, poses a serious threat to environment as well as to human health in the region. As a sink or source, urban deposits are good indicators of the level and extent of heavy metal accumulation in the surface environment. The aim of this preliminary study was to examine the distribution of heavy metal contamination in the urban environment of Guangzhou. It was based on a systematic sampling of road dusts and corresponding gully sediments along major roads running mainly through commercial and residential to industrial districts of the city. In addition to road dusts and gully sediments, ceiling dusts from the Pearl River Tunnel were also collected to characterize anthropogenic emissions dominated by traffic-related activities. In general, the level of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn contaminations were more severe on the industrialized side of Guangzhou than on the western side where heavy traffic and industrial activities were limited. The primary determinants of the level of heavy metal contamination and the distribution of this contamination in the urban environment of Guangzhou were the site-specific conditions of its urban setting, particularly the types of industries, the nature of the traffic flow, sample residence times and variations in grain size of the particulate contaminants. This study highlights the complexity of the urban system and indicates that in just such a system individual urban components should be interlinked to assess the long-term environmental and health effects of heavy metal contamination. Among the heavy metals tested – Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn – the level of Zn contamination was the most severe and widespread, and thus requires immediate attention.

Key words

Guangzhou Gully sediments Heavy metals Road dusts Tunnel-ceiling dusts Urban geochemistry 


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This study was supported by the Dr. Stephen S.F. Hui Trust Fund of The University of Hong Kong (2002–2004).


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • N.S. Duzgoren-Aydin
    • 1
  • C.S.C. Wong
    • 1
  • A. Aydin
    • 1
  • Z. Song
    • 2
  • M. You
    • 2
  • X.D. Li
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesThe University of Hong KongHong KongPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Organic GeochemistryGuangzhou Institute of GeochemistryGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Department of Civil and Structural EngineeringThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityHong KongPeople’s Republic of China

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