Determining heavy metal contamination of road dust in Delhi, India

P V Suryawanshi, B S Rajaram, A D Bhanarkar, C V Chalapati Rao


Air pollution has been considered one of the major environmental challenges because of its effect on ecosystems and human health. The concentration levels and sources of heavy metals contamination were studied in road dust samples collected from various locations including four different activity areas: industrial, highways, residential and mixed use in Delhi, India. Metal content in road dust was analyzed by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy. The results showed high concentration levels of Ni, Cr and Pb in industrial areas. Pearson’s correlations coupled with principal component analysis revealed that Cd, Cr, Ni and Pb are associated with industrial sources whereas Zn and Cu are mainly contributed by vehicular traffic. Road dust contamination was assessed by various methods: degree of contamination, potential ecological index and pollution index. Contamination factor analysis showed that road dust samples are significantly contaminated by Zn and Pb. The potential ecological indices indicated high contamination of Cd and moderate contamination of Pb in road dust, but low contamination of Cr, Cu, Ni and Zn. The pollution index of most of the metals was higher than 1, indicating deterioration of road dust quality of Delhi city due to anthropogenic emissions. The degree of contamination, the potential ecological index and the integrated pollution index reveal that road dust from industrial, mixed use and highway areas are highly contaminated by heavy metals. The road dust from the residential area is also contaminated considerably. Evaluations by various methods indicated that all assessment methods are important for environmental quality evaluation.


Correlation analysis; ecological risk index; pollution index; principal component analysis; toxic elements

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