Provenance of Anthropogenic Pb and Atmospheric Dust to Northwestern North America

Bess G. Koffman*, Patrick Saylor, Roujia Zhong, Lily Sethares, Meg F. Yoder, Lena Hanschka, Taylor Methven, Yue Cai*, Louise Bolge, Jack Longman, Steven L. Goldstein, Erich C. Osterberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Industrial activities release aerosols containing toxic metals into the atmosphere, where they are transported far from their sources, impacting ecosystems and human health. Concomitantly, long-range-transported mineral dust aerosols play a role in Earth's radiative balance and supply micronutrients to iron-limited ecosystems. To evaluate the sources of dust and pollutant aerosols to Alaska following the 2001 phase-out of leaded gasoline in China, we measured Pb-Sr-Nd isotopic compositions of particles collected in 2016 from snow pits across an elevational transect (2180-5240 m-a.s.l) in Denali National Park, USA. We also determined Pb flux and enrichment from 1991-2011 in the Denali ice core (3870 m-a.s.l). Chinese coal-burning and non-ferrous metal smelting account for up to 64% of Pb deposition at our sites, a value consistent across the western Arctic. Pb isotope ratios in the aerosols did not change between 2001 and 2016, despite the ban on lead additives. Emissions estimates demonstrate that industrial activities have more than compensated for the phase-out of leaded gasoline, with China emitting ∼37,000 metric tons year-1 of Pb during 2013-2015, approximately 78% of the Pb from East Asia. The Pb flux to Alaska now equals that measured in southern Greenland during peak pollution from North America.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13107-13118
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number18
Early online date9 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2022
Externally publishedYes


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