Assessment of heavy metals in the particulate matter of two Brazilian metropolitan areas by using Tillandsia usneoides as atmospheric biomonitor
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The aims of this paper were to quantify the heavy metals (HM) in the air of different sites in Rio de Janeiro (RJ) and Salvador (SA) using Tillandsia usneoides (Bromeliaceae) as a biomonitor, and to study the morphology and elemental composition of the air particulate matter (PM) retained on the Tillandsia surface.
Tillandsia samples were collected in a noncontaminated area and exposed to the air of five sites in RJ State and seven in SA for 45 days, in two seasons. Samples were prepared to HM quantification by flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry, while morphological and elemental characterizations were studied by using scanning electron microscopy.
HM concentrations were significantly higher when compared to control sites. We found an increasing metal concentration as follows: Cd < Cr < Pb < Cu < Zn. PM exhibited a morphology varying from amorphous- to polygonal-shaped particles. Size measurements indicated that more than 80% of particles were less than 10 μm. PM contained aluminosilicates iron-rich particles, but Zn, Cu, Cr, and Ba were also detected.
HM input in the atmosphere was mainly associated with anthropogenic sources such as vehicle exhaust. Elemental analysis detected HM in the inhalable particles, indicating that those HMs may intensify the toxic effects of PM on human health. Our results indicated T. usneoides as an adequate biomonitor of HM in the PM belonging to the inhalable fraction.
KeywordsAir particulate matter Atmospheric pollution Biomonitoring Electron microscopy Heavy metals Tillandsia
We are very grateful to Dr. Juliano Matos (Secretaria de Meio Ambiente do Estado da Bahia), Jose Ricardo Thomaz for the metal analysis, and COPPE-UFRJ for its SEM-EDS analysis. We also express our gratitude to Meggie Meltzer and Nicole Thompson (National Institutes of Health) for the grammar revision; and Alzira Silva and Jose Amado (INEA-RJ) for their field support in Rio de Janeiro. In Salvador, we appreciate the field support of SEMA, Vigilancia Sanitaria, Prefeitura de Salvador, and Dr. Marcos André Vannier (Fiocruz-BA). This work received financial support from SEMA-BA, Superintendencia do Meio Ambiente de Salvador, and CNPq (Edital 18). The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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