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

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.


Megacity; PM10; trace metals; road traffic; atmospheric pollution

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Atmósfera, vol. 32, issue 1, January-March 2019 is a quarterly journal published by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México via the Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Circuito de la Investigación Científica s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Delegación Coyoacán, 04510 CDMX, phone number (+52 55) 5622-4240, ext. 81888,, Editor in Chief: Jorge Zavala Hidalgo. ISSN 2395-8812. Person in charge of the last update, Claudio Mario Amescua García, Editorial Office of the Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera. Last modification: January 1, 2019.

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