Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 195–212 | Cite as

Soluble metals in the atmosphere and their biological implications

A study to identify important aerosol components by statistical analysis of PIXE data
  • John W. Winchester
Nuclear Methods in Environmental Studies


Multivariate statistical analysis has been applied to time series measurements of aerosol elemental composition from PIXE analysis of filter samples, and principal components have been resolved that represent distinct particle types in an external mixture in the atmosphere. In this study, it is argued that a combination of chemical and statistical analyses of the data may be more powerful in determining chemical species in atmospheric aerosols than studies that employ mainly direct chemical analysis of chemical species in unresolved mixtures of aerosol particle samples. Sulfur is generally associated with mineral dust elements. It is reasoned that the association may represent sulfuric acid coatings on particles that can lead to mineral dissolution and solubilization of significant amounts of aluminum, iron, and other metals.

Upon wet or dry deposition to the surface, the fluxes of these metals in biologically-available form may be sufficient to affect primary productivity in the world ocean and cause ecological damage in lakes. As a consequence, the fluxes of biogenic trace gases to the atmosphere may be changed, possibly leading to changes in the tropospheric concentration of ozone. The inputs to lakes of soluble aluminum, which is toxic to fish, may be partly by deposition directly from the atmosphere, thus not limited to leaching of soils by acid deposition. Human inhalation of soluble aluminum and other solulilized mineral metals may account, in part, for the observed geographic pattern of deaths attributed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that show high rates in cities of the Western US and the southeast region, but low in most of the midwest and northeast.

Index Entries

Aerosols analysis, chemical and statistical atmosphere ozone 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc. 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • John W. Winchester
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of OceanographyFlorida State UniversityTallahassee

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