Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 416–427 | Cite as

Assessment of heavy metals in the particulate matter of two Brazilian metropolitan areas by using Tillandsia usneoides as atmospheric biomonitor

  • Nelzair A. Vianna
  • Daniel Gonçalves
  • Flavia Brandão
  • Roberta P. de Barros
  • Gilberto M. Amado Filho
  • Rodrigo O. Meire
  • João Paulo M. Torres
  • Olaf Malm
  • Argemiro D’Oliveira Júnior
  • Leonardo R. AndradeEmail author
Research Article



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.


Air 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.

Supplementary material

11356_2010_387_MOESM1_ESM.doc (218 kb)
Supporting Information Online S1 Localization of the studied sites in Brazil. In Rio de Janeiro State: 1, Itatiaia National Park; 2, Cordeiro City; 3, Nova Iguaçu City; 4, São Gonçalo City. In Rio de Janeiro city: 5, Centro da Cidade; 6, Jardim Botânico; 7, Jacarepaguá. In Salvador City: 8, Stella Mares; 9, Pituba; 10, Barra; 11, Comércio; 12, Dique do Tororó; 13, Brotas; 14, Beira-Mangue. (DOC 218 kb)
11356_2010_387_MOESM2_ESM.doc (878 kb)
Supporting Information Online S2 T. usneoides placed in two plastic baskets with an acrylic plate on the top. Bar = 7.5 cm (DOC 878 kb)
11356_2010_387_MOESM3_ESM.doc (494 kb)
Supporting Information Online S3 SEM images generated by back-scattered electrons showing the analized particles. a Particles observed in IT sample. The elements detected in the round particle (arrow) are shown in Fig. S4a, while the elements found in the triangular particle (below) are shown in Fig. S4b (bar = 5 μm). b CO sample, elements found in the upper particle (*1) showed in Fig. S4c and the bottom particle (*2) depicted in Fig. S4d. c SG sample, elements detected in particle *1 are presented in Fig. S4e, while particle with an arrow are in Fig. S4f. d CT sample, atoms in the brighter region (arrow) of the amorphous material are shown in Fig. S4g, while the particle with an asterisk (*) in Fig. S4h. e SM sample, particle analyzed in Fig. S5d. f BR sample, particle analyzed (arrow) in Fig. S5e. g BT sample, particle analyzed (arrow) in Fig. S5f. h CM sample, particle analyzed (arrow) in Fig. S5g. (DOC 494 kb)
11356_2010_387_MOESM4_ESM.doc (734 kb)
Supporting Information Online S4 EDXA of particles found in the control sites and Rio de Janeiro State. a Elemental spectrum from a round particle found in Itatiaia composed basically by iron aluminum-silicate. b Elemental composition of an Itatiaia PM showing a high amount of titanium. c Spectrum of a particle found in CO composed by aluminum-silicate and high potassium. d Spectrum of other particle from CO with a high amount of iron. e Spectrum showing Cr, Cu, and Zn as components of a polygonal particle found in the monitored site SG. f Spectrum from an amorphous particle from SG with Ba, Cr, Cu, and Zn as atmospheric contaminants. g Spectrum of an amorphous material containing the elements Ti and Zn from a CT sample. h Spectrum of a polygonal particle found in CT with high amounts of S and Ba. (DOC 734 kb)
11356_2010_387_MOESM5_ESM.doc (158 kb)
Supporting Information Online S5 EDXA of particles found in the other monitored sites in Rio de Janeiro State and Salvador. a Spectrum of a particle found on the biomonitor in a JP sample showing the heavy metal Zn. b Spectrum of a particle found on the biomonitor in a NI sample showing Cu and Zn. c Spectrum from polygonal particle found in a JB sample showing iron aluminum-silicates with titanium. d Spectrum from a SM particle presenting C, O, Al, Si, Fe, Na, and Cl. e Spectrum of a round particle from BR composed by Cr and Cu. f Cu was detected in many particles, such as an amorphous found in BT. g Spectrum of a polygonal particle found in CM containing Cr and Cu. (DOC 158 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nelzair A. Vianna
    • 1
  • Daniel Gonçalves
    • 2
  • Flavia Brandão
    • 2
  • Roberta P. de Barros
    • 2
  • Gilberto M. Amado Filho
    • 3
  • Rodrigo O. Meire
    • 4
  • João Paulo M. Torres
    • 4
  • Olaf Malm
    • 4
  • Argemiro D’Oliveira Júnior
    • 1
  • Leonardo R. Andrade
    • 2
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculdade de MedicinaUniversidade Federal da BahiaSalvadorBrazil
  2. 2.Laboratório de Biomineralização, Instituto de Ciências BiomédicasUniversidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Programa Zona CosteiraInstituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botânico do Rio de JaneiroJardim Botânico, Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  4. 4.Laboratório de Radioisótopos, Instituto de Biofísica Carlos Chagas FilhoUFRJRio de JaneiroBrazil
  5. 5.Section on Structural Cell Biology, Laboratory of Cell Structure and Dynamics, NIDCDNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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