Heavy metals and Pb isotopic composition of aerosols in urban and suburban areas of Hong Kong and Guangzhou, South China-Evidence of the long-range transport of air contaminants

Celine S.L. Lee, Xiangdong Li, Gan Zhang, Jun Li, Ai Jun Ding, Tao Wang

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201 Citations (Scopus)


Rapid urbanization and industrialization in South China has placed great strain on the environment and on human health. In the present study, the total suspended particulate matter (TSP) in the urban and suburban areas of Hong Kong and Guangzhou, the two largest urban centres in South China, was sampled from December 2003 to January 2005. The samples were analysed for the concentrations of major elements (Al, Fe, Mg and Mn) and trace metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb, V and Zn), and for Pb isotopic composition. Elevated concentrations of metals, especially Cd, Pb, V and Zn, were observed in the urban and suburban areas of Guangzhou, showing significant atmospheric trace element pollution. Distinct seasonal patterns were observed in the heavy metal concentrations of aerosols in Hong Kong, with higher metal concentrations during the winter monsoon period, and lower concentrations during summertime. The seasonal variations in the metal concentrations of the aerosols in Guangzhou were less distinct, suggesting the dominance of local sources of pollution around the city. The Pb isotopic composition in the aerosols of Hong Kong had higher206Pb/207Pb and208Pb/207Pb ratios in winter, showing the influence of Pb from the northern inland areas of China and the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region, and lower206Pb/207Pb and208Pb/207Pb ratios in summer, indicating the influence of Pb from the South Asian region and from marine sources. The back trajectory analysis showed that the enrichment of heavy metals in Hong Kong and Guangzhou was closely associated with the air mass from the north and northeast that originated from northern China, reflecting the long-range transport of heavy metal contaminants from the northern inland areas of China to the South China coast.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-447
Number of pages16
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007


  • Aerosols
  • Heavy metals
  • Pb isotopes
  • South China
  • Trajectories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science

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