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Centre for Earth and Environmental Science Research

Source apportionment, transport mechanisms and distribution of inorganic pollutants

Executive Summary
ResearchersProfessor K. Jarvis, CEESR
Dr C Fry, Transport Research Laboratory
Dr P Chatfield, Environment Agency (Project Manager)
Professor SJ Parry, Imperial College
Dr S Cook, University of Reading
Funding Body/SourceEnvironment Agency, Highways Agency
Duration2003 -
Project Summary

Heavy metals, are found in the roadside environment at levels which are often elevated. For example, road side dusts may contain significant amounts of Zn, Pb and Cu (Jarvis et al., 2001). While the dust itself is in part derived from wind-blown local soil, the elevated concentrations can not normally be attributed to this source. Traffic has the potential to input a vast array of heavy metals to the environment through which it travels.

Figure 1: Sampling site in SW London

The chemical composition of materials used to construct roads and the signing, marking and construction features associated with them, is very varied and potentially provides for sources of a wide range of elements. For example road surfaces are composed of aggregate, bitumen, fillers and binders, while signs are constructed from steel with painted or galvanised surfaces. Drainage systems have grills and covers made from cast iron. The chemical composition of each component is to some extent dictated by its intended use such that an effective galvanised coating will only be durable if it falls within a particular specification for impurities in the major component, zinc.

In order for sources of road side pollution to be properly targeted in remediation schemes the source of each pollutant must first be identified and its relative contribution assessed. The hypothesis to be tested in this work is that the chemical characteristics or 'trace element fingerprint' of the different potential input sources can be characterised. Fingerprints from a number of different sources will then mix to give the characteristic trace element composition observed in the surface dust deposits which are found on road and road-side surfaces. The aim of this work is therefore to try and unravel the complex trace element pattern found in dust deposits, and to identify and assess the relative contribution of each source.


Cook, SR, Jarvis, KE and Hird, A. (2003) Diagnostic tool for source apportionment around road systems. Year 1 report Environment Agency, Highways Agency & Transport Research Laboratory

Fry, C, Jarvis, KE & Parry, SJ, (2005) Diagnostic tool for source apportionment of heavy metals around road systems. Environment Agency Report

Jarvis, K.E., Parry, S.J. & Piper, J.M. (2001) Temporal and spatial studies of auto-catalyst derived Pt, Rh and Pd and selected vehicle-derived trace elements in the environment. Environmental Science & Technology, 35: 1031-1036.

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