Chemical forms of Pb, Zn and Cu in the dediment profiles of the Pearl River Estuary

Xiangdong Li, Zhenguo Shen, Wing Hong Onyx Wai, Yok Sheung Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

302 Citations (Scopus)


The chemical forms of heavy metals (Pb, Zn and Cu) in sediment cores of the Pearl River Estuary were studied using a sequential chemical extraction method. The isotope ratios of206Pb/207Pb in various chemical fractions were also measured to assess the potential Pb sources. Zinc and Cu were mainly associated with the residual fraction. The Fe-Mn oxide and organic/sulphide fractions were the next important phases for Zn and Cu, respectively. For Pb, different chemical partitioning patterns were found among different sediment cores. Most Pb was associated with the residual fraction in the sediments. In some sediment profiles, the major phase of Pb in the top layers was the Fe-Mn oxide fraction. The proportion of Pb in the Fe-Mn oxide fraction decreased significantly with increasing depth. Among the different depths, the206Pb/207Pb isotope ratios in the residual fraction remained fairly stable, with a mean value of 1.202, which may represent the natural background value. The206Pb/207Pb ratios in the exchangeable fraction were the lowest among the five fractions, particularly in top sediments, showing the anthropogenic inputs of heavy metals from recent rapid industrial development in the surrounding region. For the other three non-residual fractions, there was a similar trend of increasing206Pb/207Pb ratios down the profile. Results from this study are useful in assessing both the chemical changes for heavy metals in marine sediments and the potential of heavy metal release into the water environment of an estuary area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-223
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2001


  • Chemical speciation
  • China
  • Heavy metals
  • Pb isotopes
  • Sediment core
  • The Pearl River Estuary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Oceanography
  • Pollution


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