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Traffic Related Metals InSoil And Sediment In Mauritius

Author(s): Petersson L


Traffic has been identified as a significant heavy metal polluter of roadside soils, and copper (Cu), lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) in particular are associated with road travel. In a historic perspective, the Pb contribution from anthropogenic sources to nature has predominantly been a result of fuel combustion. There are indications that Cu (mainly through braking system) and Zn (emissions from tires) released from traffic give rise to as much as half of the total urban contribution of copper and zinc to the environment. Concentrations of Cu, Pb and Zn in roadside soils and sediment have been determined at selected roads within the Grand River North West watershed in Mauritius. As total metal concentrations are not a suitable indicator of the metal concentrations that are potentially available to biota, metals extractable in 0.5 M HCl have been determined along with total concentrations. The spatial variation in metal concentration along soil transects perpendicular to roads were investigated, as was the variation with depth. Observed Pb and Zn concentrations exhibited elevated levels in topsoil in the immediate vicinity of roads with relatively large traffic densities, but the decrease in concentration with distance was rapid. Results from soil reference sites pointed to a large scale Pb pollution on the island. In comparison, observed Cu concentrations could not be assigned any influence from traffic at the selected study sites. In the event of rain, metals contained in polluted road dust and soil may be released into soluble form, or flushed from roadways as particulate matter, and transported to nearby water courses. In Mauritius, this is of particular importance as sediment in rivers eventually may be deposited in the sensitive coastal areas of the island. However, results do not indicate that there were any elevated levels of heavy metals in sediment close to roads that were investigated in this study. Although Cu concentrations in roadside soils did not show any enrichment and the zone of elevated Pb and Zn concentrations was not wide, there is a concern that the continuing rapid increase in the number of vehicles in Mauritius will change the situation, possibly resulting in greater impact on the surrounding environment. Hence, in order to avoid any ecological damage, it is desirable to continue monitoring the situation along highways in the country.

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