Potential of asphalt concrete as a source of trace metals

  • Konstantin von GuntenEmail author
  • Kurt O. Konhauser
  • Daniel S. Alessi
Short Communication


Asphalt concrete is one of the most important building materials in the modern world, but the leaching potential of metals from this composite material to the environment is poorly understood. In this study, metals leaching from four hot-mix asphalt samples were analyzed: two fresh samples of low-traffic and high-traffic composition and their weathered equivalents collected from roads in the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. A sequential extraction, based on the Community Bureau of Reference method, was applied to study the speciation and potential mobility of metals and metalloids in those samples. Major trace metals identified in all four samples were Mn, P, Ba, Sr, Zn, V, and Ni, with the highest metals concentrations generally found in weathered asphalt concrete. Of the major trace metals, P, Mn, Sr, and Zn were relatively mobile, having large portions of their total concentrations in the exchangeable/acid-soluble and reducible fractions. When considering the most mobile fraction (exchangeable/acid soluble) and using Canada as a model country, up to 180 t P, 440 t Mn, 50 t Ba, 36 t Sr, 11 t Zn, and 0.11–3.2 t of other metals and metalloids (including Cr, Ni, Cu, As, and Pb) could potentially leach from the top layer of Canada’s total of paved public roads. To place these amounts into perspective, they were estimated to make up to 22‰ of Canada’s annual release numbers into soil, water and air for these same metals and metalloids. However, they are concentrated in a small area around roads and highways, creating the potential for localized soil and groundwater contamination.


Asphalt Road construction Urban environment Inorganic pollutants Soil contamination 



This work was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery grant (RGPIN-04134) to D.S.A. The authors thank the anonymous pavement company for providing the fresh asphalt concrete samples and the Edmonton city administration for the provided historical records on the sampled pavements. The authors also appreciate the valuable comments provided by two anonymous reviewers that served to improve this work.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary file1 (DOCX 2438 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Konstantin von Gunten
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kurt O. Konhauser
    • 1
  • Daniel S. Alessi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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