Integrating multiple spheres to identify the provenance and risk of urban dust and potentially toxic elements: Case study from central Mexico

Rodrigo Rodríguez, Diana Meza-Figueroa, Agustin Robles-Morua, José Tuxpan-Vargas, Elena Vázquez-Vázquez, Bhaskar Sen-Gupta, Nadia Martínez-Villegas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aims to improve the current method of studying potentially toxic elements (PTEs) in urban dust using direct chemical evidence (from dust, rock, and emission source samples) and robust geochemical methods. The provenance of urban dust was determined using rare earth elements (REEs) and geochemical diagrams (V–Ni–Th*10, TiO2 vs. Zr, and Zr/Ti vs. Nb/Y). The geogenic or anthropogenic source of PTEs was determined using the enrichment factor (EF) and compositional data analysis (CoDA), while a PTE's point emission source was identified using a 3.1*La–1.54*Ce–Zn diagram, mineralogy, and morphology analyses. The spatiotemporal distribution of PTEs was determined using a geographic information system, and their health risk (by inhalation) was estimated using a lung bioaccessibility test and particle size distribution. We collected urban dust (n = 38), rock (n = 4), and zinc concentrate (n = 2) samples and determined PTEs and REEs in a city of 1.25 million inhabitants in central Mexico. Results showed that urban dust derived from the San Miguelito Range. REEs, Sc, and Zr were geogenic, while Mn, Cu, Zn, As, and Pb were anthropogenic. Due to the presente of sphalerite particles, a zinc refinery was identified as the point emission source of Zn, As, and Pb. High concentrations of Zn (5000–20,008 mg/kg), As (120–284 mg/kg), and Pb (350–776 mg/kg) were found in urban dust near the zinc refinery. Additionally, particles of PM2.5 (66–84%), PM5.0 (13–27%), PM10 (3–8%), and PM20 (0–2%) and lung bioaccessibility of Sr (48.5–72.4%), Zn (9.6–28.4%), Cu (10.5–27.0%), Fe (4.5–8.6%), Mn (2.9–9.2%), Cr (38.3%) and Pb (30.6%) demonstrated a latent risk to human health. These approaches improve our understanding of the provenance of urban dust and its PTE emission sources in urban areas.
Original languageEnglish
Article number122525
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Early online date6 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2023


  • Urban dust
  • Potentially toxic elements
  • Emission sources
  • Health risk assessment
  • Geochemistry analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology


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