Partitioning of the water soluble versus insoluble fraction of trace elements in the city of Santiago, Chile

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Maria A. Rubio
Karen Sánchez
Pablo Richter
Jorge Pey
Ernesto Gramsch


The total elemental composition and the water-soluble fraction of PM10 from three different urban areas in Santiago, Chile, from downtown to the suburbs, were investigated. PM10 samples collected during the month of May (mid-autumn in the Southern Hemisphere) in 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010 were analyzed for major and trace metals, and the partitioning between the insoluble and soluble fractions was determined for most of them. PM10 average concentrations ranged from 71 µg m–3 (Cerrillos) to 128 µg m–3 (La Pintana), which are within the seasonal ranges observed in Santiago. Twenty five major and trace elements (Fe, Al, Ca, K, Mg, P, Pb, S, Ti, Mn, Cu, Zn, Ba, Zr, Cr, As, Sn, Sb, Ni, V, Li, Co, Cd, La, and Rb) were determined in the present study. Ba, Sb, Cd, As, and Zn, with proportions in the soluble fraction varying from 50% to 98%, were the most soluble elements. On the contrary, the less soluble trace elements were Ti, Sn, Pb, and Cr. Most of the high-solubility trace metals are strongly linked to non-exhaust traffic emissions, as well as to certain industrial sources. Our results evidence the significant amount of soluble trace elements in Santiago’s urban atmosphere classified as toxic and/or carcinogenic, thus suggesting a non-negligible health impact.


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