High mass concentrations of atmospheric lead particles are frequently observed in the Delhi, India metropolitan area, although the sources of lead particles are poorly understood. In this study, particles sampled across Delhi (August - December 2008) were analyzed by computer-controlled scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (CCSEM-EDX) to improve our understanding of the spatial and physicochemical variability of lead-rich particles (>90% lead). The mean mass concentration of lead-rich particles smaller than 10 μm (PM10) was 0.7 μg/m3 (1.5 μg/m3 std. dev.) with high variability (range: 0-6.2 μg/m3). Four samples (16% of 25 samples) with PM10 lead-rich particle concentrations >1.4 μg/m3 were defined as lead events and studied further. The temporal characteristics, heterogeneous spatial distribution, and wind patterns of events, excluded regional monsoon conditions or common anthropogenic sources from being the major causes of the lead events. Individual particle composition, size, and morphology analysis indicate informal recycling operations of used lead-acid batteries as the likely source of the lead events. This source is not typically included in emission inventories, and the observed isolated hotspots with high lead concentrations could represent an elevated exposure risk in certain neighborhoods of Delhi.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry