Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Modelling Some Heavy Metals Air Concentration in Europe

  • 364 Accesses

  • 10 Citations


Metals, as well as other air toxic pollutants, can be responsible for a range of human health effects via inhalation or ingestion. European normatives regulate lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and nickel ambient air levels in order to prevent potential damage to human health and ecosystems; annual target levels of 500, 6, 5 and 20 ng/m3 for Pb, As, Cd and Ni are set for these pollutants in directives 2008/50/CE and 2004/107/CE. Air quality models constitute a powerful tool to understand tropospheric dynamic and to assign concentration values to areas where no measurement is available. However, not many models include heavy metals in their code, and mainly results for Pb, Cd and Hg have been published. In this paper, we present preliminary results on modelling Pb, Cd, As, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cr and Se air background concentration in Europe using the CHIMERE model, at a 0.2° resolution and the evaluation of the model performance in order to see its capability to reproduce observed levels. This evaluation was performed by comparing simulated values with observations at the EMEP monitoring sites, as only values at background sites can be captured at the 0.2° model resolution. Important uncertainties mainly related to emissions should be solved in order to obtain an improvement of model performance; more recent annual totals, information on snap activities for each metal, higher spatial resolution and a better knowledge of the temporal emission behaviour is necessary to adequately model these air pollutants. Also a better treatment of these particles considering more realistic metal size distribution, more refined deposition processes or some chemical processes regarding Se could result in better model results. A larger number of stations and a better temporal coverage of observations are also important to carry out a better statistical analysis of model performance.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9


  1. Aas, W., & Breivik, K. (2010). Heavy metals and POP measurements 2008. Kjeller, Norwegian Institute for Air Research (EMEP/CCC Report #3/2010).

  2. Allen, A. G., Nemitz, E., Shi, J. P., Harrison, R. M., & Greenwood, J. C. (2001). Size distribution of trace metals in atmospheric aerosols in the United Kingdom. Atmospheric Environment, 35, 4581–4591.

  3. Bartnicki, J., & Olendrzyiiski, K. (1996). Modeling Atmospheric Transport of Heavy Metals Over Europe in the 50 km Grid System. Working Paper 96–141.

  4. Bessagnet, B., Hodzic, A., Vautard, R., Beekmann, M., Rouil, L., & Rosset, R. (2004). Aerosol modelling with CHIMERE—first evaluation at continental scale. Atmospheric Environment, 38, 2803–2817.

  5. Bessagnet, B., Hodzic, A., Blanchard, O., Lattuati, M., Le Bihan, O., Marfaing, H., & Rouil, L. (2006). Origin of particulate matter pollution episodes in wintertime over the Paris Basin. Atmospheric Environment, 39, 6159–6174.

  6. Boylan, J. W., & Russell, A. G. (2006). PM and light extinction model performance metrics, goals, and criteria for three-dimensional air quality models. Atmospheric Environment, 40, 4946–4959.

  7. Dillner, A. M., Schauer, J. J., Christensen, W. F., & Cass, G. R. (2005). A quantitative method for clustering size distributions of elements. Atmospheric Environment, 39, 1525–1537.

  8. EC (European Commission) (2000). DG environmental working group on arsenic, cadmium and nickel compounds, 2000. Ambient air pollution by As, Cd and Ni compounds, Position Paper (Final Version), October 2000.

  9. EEA (2010). European Union emission inventory report 1990–2008 under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP). EEA Technical report No. 7/2010.

  10. EEA (2011). European Union emission inventory report 1990–2009 under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP). EEA Technical report No. 9/2011.

  11. Finlayson-Pitts, B. J., & Pitts, J. N. Jr. (2000). Chemistry of the Upper and Lower Atmosphere (First Edition). Theory, Experiments, and Applications Copyright © 2000 ISBN: 978-0-12-257060-5.

  12. Gusev A., Ilyin, I., Shatalov, V., & Sokovych, V. (2008). Modelling of transboundary atmospheric pollution by heavy metals and POPs in Europe and Central Asia (EMEP/MSC-E Report #1/2008).

  13. Gusev, A., Iliyn, I., Rozovskaya, O., Shatalov, V., Sokovych, V., & Travnikov, O. (2009). Modelling of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants: new developments (EMEP/MSC-E Report #1/2009).

  14. HEI. (1998). Health Effects Institute. Attachment A: Summary of a Workshop on Metal-Based Fuel Additives and New Engine Technologies.

  15. Hodzic, A., Vautard, R., Bessagnet, B., Lattuati, M., & Moreto, F. (2005). On the quality of long-term urban particulate matter simulation with the CHIMERE model. Atmospheric Environment, 39, 5851–5864.

  16. Ilyin, I., & Travnikov, O. (2005). Modelling of heavy metal airborne pollution in Europe: evaluation of the model performance (EMEP/MSC-E Report #8/2005).

  17. Ilyin, I., Rozovskaya, O., Sokovyh, V., Travnikov, O., Varygina, M., Aas, W., & Uggerud, H. T. (2010). Heavy Metals: Transboundary Pollution of the Environment (EMEP/CCC Report #2/2010).

  18. Ilyin, I., Rozovskaya, O., Travnikov, O., & Varygina, M. (2011). Heavy Metals: Transboundary Pollution of the Environment (EMEP/CCC Report #2/2011).

  19. Kuloglu, E., & Tuncel, G. (2005). Size distribution of trace elements and major ions in the eastern Mediterranean atmosphere. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 167, 221–241.

  20. Milford, J. B., & Davidson, C. I. (1985). The sizes of particulate trace elements in the atmosphere—a review. Journal of the Air Pollution Control Association, 35, 1249–1260.

  21. Mol W. J. A., van Hooydonk, P. R., & de Leeuw, F. A. A. M. (2010). The state of the air quality in 2008 and the European exchange of monitoring information in 2009. (ETC/ACC Technical paper #2010/1).

  22. Molnar, A., Meszaros, E., Polyak, K., Borbely-Kiss, I., Koltay, E., Szabo, G., & Horvath, Z. (1995). Atmospheric budget of different elements in aerosol particles over Hungary. Atmospheric Environment, 29, 1821–1828.

  23. Monteiro, A., Vautard, R., Borrego, C., & Miranda, A. I. (2005). Long-term simulations of photo oxidant pollution over Portugal using the CHIMERE model. Atmospheric Environment, 39, 3089–3101.

  24. Nriagu, J. O., & Pacyna, J. M. (1988). Quantitative assessment of worldwide contamination of air, water and soil by trace metals. Nature, 333, 134–139.

  25. Pakkanen, T. A., Kerminen, V. M., Korhonen, C. H., Hillamo, R. E., Aarnio, P., Koskentalo, T., & Maenhaut, W. (2001). Use of atmospheric elemental size distributions in estimating aerosol sources in the Helsinki area. Atmospheric Environment, 35, 5537–5551.

  26. Ryaboshapko, A., Ilyin, I., Gusev, A., & Afinogenova, O., Berg, T., Hjellbrekke, A. (1999). Monitoring and Modelling of Lead, Cadmium and Mercury Transboundary Transport in the Atmosphere of Europe. (EMEP/MSC-E Report #1/1999).

  27. Thunis, P., Georgieva, E., & Pederzoli, E. (2010). The DELTA tool and Benchmarking Report template. Concepts and User guide (Version 2). Joint Research Centre, Ispra.

  28. UN/ECE. (2000). United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Protocol on Heavy Metals. Aarhus (Denmark). 24 June 1998.

  29. US EPA. (1999a). National Air Toxics Program: The Integrated Urban Strategy, United States Environmental Protection Agency's Federal Register Vol. 64, No. 137,1999), available at: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/uatw/urban/urbanpg.html

  30. Van der Gon, D. H. A. C., van het Bolscher, M., Visschedijk, A. J. H., & Zandveld, P. Y. J. (2005). Study to the effectiveness of the UNECE Heavy Metals Protocol and costs of possible additional measures. Phase I: Estimation of emission reduction resulting from the implementation of the HM Protocol. TNO-report B&O-A R 2005/193.

  31. Van der Most P. F. J., & Veldt, C. (1992). Emission Factors Manual PARCOM-ATMOS-Emission factors for air pollutants. TNO Rept. 92-235. TNO Environmental and Energy Research, Apeldoorn, the Netherlands.

  32. Vestreng, V., Breivik, K., Adams, M., Wagener, A., Goodwin, J., Rozovskkaya, O., & Pacyna, J. M. (2005). Inventory Review 2005, Emission Data reported to LRTAP Convention and NEC Directive, Initial review of HMs and POPs, Technical report MSC-W 1/2005, ISSN 0804-2446.

  33. Vivanco, M. G., Correa, M., Azula, O., Palomino I., & Martín, F. (2008). Influence of model resolution on ozone predictions over Madrid area (Spain). Computacional Science and Its Applications. ICSSA 2008. Lecture Notes in Computing Science LNCS 5072.

  34. Vivanco, M. G., Palomino, I., Martín, F., Palacios, M., Jorba, O., Jiménez, P., Baldasano, J. M., & Azula, O. (2009). An Evaluation of the Performance of the CHIMERE Model over Spain Using Meteorology from MM5 and WRF Models. ICCSA 2009, Part I, LNCS 5592.

  35. Vivanco, M. G., Palomino, I., Vautard, R., Bessagnet, B., Martin, F., Menut, L., & Jimenez, S. (2009). Multi-year assessment of photochemical air quality simulation over Spain. Environmental Software & Modelling, 24, 63–73.

  36. Vivanco M. G., González, M. A., Palomino, I., Garrido, J. L., Querol, X., Bessagnet, B., de la Rosa, J., & Sánchez de la Campa, A. M. (2011). Modelling Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium and Nickel Ambient Air Concentrations in Spain, ICCSA 2011, pp.243-246, International Conference on Computational Science and Its Applications.

Download references


This study has been supported by the agreement between the Spanish Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs and CIEMAT on “Air Quality Modelling”. We kindly acknowledge Santiago Jiménez, Francisco Reina and Alberto González for their collaboration. Also we gratefully acknowledge Dr. Ilya Ilyin for emission information supply. For this work, Bertrand Bessagnet was funded by the French Ministry in charge of Ecology (MEEDDM).

Author information

Correspondence to Mª Ángeles González.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

González, M.Á., Vivanco, M.G., Palomino, I. et al. Modelling Some Heavy Metals Air Concentration in Europe. Water Air Soil Pollut 223, 5227–5242 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-012-1274-6

Download citation


  • Air quality modelling
  • Heavy metals
  • Particulate matter
  • Air pollution
  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Nickel
  • Selenium
  • Zinc