Isotopic signatures suggest important contributions from recycled gasoline, road dust and non-exhaust traffic sources for copper, zinc and lead in PM10 in London, United Kingdom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Shuofei Dong
  • Raquel Ochoa Gonzalez
  • David Green
  • Robin North
  • Geoff Fowler
  • Dominik Weiss

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Imperial College London
  • CRPG, UMR 7358 CNRS-UL
  • King's College London
  • Department of Environmental Sciences / Center of Excellence in Environmental Studies, King Abdulaziz University, PO Box 80203, Jeddah, 21589, Saudi Arabia


The aim of this study was to improve our understanding of what controls the isotope composition of Cu, Zn and Pb in particulate matter (PM) in the urban environment and to develop these isotope systems as possible source tracers. To this end, isotope ratios (Cu, Zn and Pb) and trace element concentrations (Fe, Al, Cu, Zn, Sb, Ba, Pb, Cr, Ni and V) were determined in PM10 collected at two road sites with contrasting traffic densities in central London, UK, during two weeks in summer 2010, and in potential sources, including non-combustion traffic emissions (tires and brakes), road furniture (road paint, manhole cover and road tarmac surface) and road dust. Iron, Ba and Sb were used as proxies for emissions derived from brake pads, and Ni, and V for emissions derived from fossil fuel oil.

The isotopic composition of Pb (expressed using 206Pb/207Pb) ranged between 1.1137 and 1.1364. The isotope ratios of Cu and Zn expressed as δ65CuNIST976 and δ66ZnLyonranged between −0.01‰ and +0.51‰ and between −0.21‰ and +0.33‰, respectively. We did not find significant differences in the isotope signatures in PM10 over the two weeks sampling period and between the two sites, suggesting similar sources for each metal at both sites despite their different traffic densities. The stable isotope composition of Pb suggests significant contribution from road dust resuspension and from recycled leaded gasoline. The Cu and Zn isotope signatures of tires, brakes and road dust overlap with those of PM10. The correlation between the enrichments of Sb, Cu, Ba and Fe in PM10 support the previously established hypothesis that Cu isotope ratios are controlled by non-exhaust traffic emission sources in urban environments (Ochoa Gonzalez et al., 2016). Analysis of the Zn isotope signatures in PM10 and possible sources at the two sites suggests significant contribution from tire wear. However, temporary additional sources, likely high temperature industrial emissions, need to be invoked to explain the isotopically light Zn found in 3 out of 18 samples of PM10.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-98
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Early online date12 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • Atmospheric particulate matter , Sources , Isotopes , zinc , copper , lead