Potentially toxic elements in urban soils: source apportionment and contamination assessment

Soroush Modabberi, Mahsa Tashakor, Neda Sharifi Soltani, Andrew Hursthouse

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21 Citations (Scopus)
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Soils play a vital role in the quality ‎of the urban environment and the health of its residents. City soils and street dusts ‎accumulate various contaminants and particularly potentially toxic elements (PTEs) from a variety of human activities. This study investigates the current condition of elemental concentration in the urban soils of Hamedan, the largest ‎and the fastest-growing city in western Iran. Thirty-four composite soil samples were collected from 0-10 cm topsoil of ‎various land-uses in Hamedan city and were analyzed for total concentration of 63 elements by ICP-MS. The possible sources of elemental loadings were verified using multivariate statistical methods (principal component analysis and cluster analysis) and geochemical ‎indices. The spatial variability of the main PTEs were mapped using geographic information system (GIS) technique. The results revealed a concentration for As, Co, Cr, Mn, Mo, Ni and V in the soil samples comparable to the background values as well as a range of associations among these elements in a single component suggesting geogenic sources related to geological and ‎pedogenic processes. Whilst, the soils mostly presented a moderate to considerable enrichment/contamination of Cd, ‎Zn, Pb, and Sb and moderate enrichment/contamination of Cu, Zn and Mo. It was found that anthropogenic factors, vehicular traffic in particular, control the concentration of a spectrum of elements that are typical of human activities, i.e. Cd, Cu, Hg, Pb, Sb and Zn. Lead and Sb were both ‎the most enriched elements in soils with no correlation with land use highlighting general urban emissions over time ‎and the impact of transport networks directly on soil quality. The highest concentrations of As was recorded in the southern part of the city reflecting the influence of metamorphic rocks. The effect of the geological substrate on the Co and Ni contents was confirmed by their maximum concentrations in the city's marginal areas. However, high spatial variability of urban elements’ contents displayed the contribution of various human activities. In particular, the increased concentration of Cd, Sb and Pb was found to be consistent with the areas where vehicular traffic is heaviest.
Original languageEnglish
Article number715
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number12
Early online date12 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2018


  • urban geochemistry
  • soil contamination
  • Environmental geochemistry
  • multivariate statistics
  • enrichment factor
  • contamination factor


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