Journal of Atmospheric Pollution
ISSN (Print): 2381-2982 ISSN (Online): 2381-2990 Website: Editor-in-chief: Ki-Hyun Kim
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Journal of Atmospheric Pollution. 2017, 5(2), 47-54
DOI: 10.12691/jap-5-2-2
Open AccessArticle

Airborne Lead in El Paso, Texas, USA

Paz L.M.1, Amaya M.A.2, Clague J.W.3, Li W-W4, Olvera H.A.2, Berwick M.5, Burchiel S.W.6 and Pingitore N.E.1,

1Department of Geological Sciences, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas, USA

2School of Nursing, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas, USA

3Environmental Engineering & Public Health (E2PH), LLC, El Paso, Texas, USA

4Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas, USA

5Department of Internal Medicine and Dermatology, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA

6College of Pharmacy, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Pub. Date: August 12, 2017

Cite this paper:
Paz L.M., Amaya M.A., Clague J.W., Li W-W, Olvera H.A., Berwick M., Burchiel S.W. and Pingitore N.E.. Airborne Lead in El Paso, Texas, USA. Journal of Atmospheric Pollution. 2017; 5(2):47-54. doi: 10.12691/jap-5-2-2


Despite significant strides to minimize lead in our air, water, soil, food, homes, workplaces, and consumer products, sporadic and systemic lead poisoning persists in industrial societies, e.g., the contemporary Flint (Michigan, USA) municipal water tragedy. Because lead exposure is cumulative, the sum of exposure from all sources, it is important to document and update potential community or neighborhood exposure levels from such environmental compartments as air, water, soil, food, and housing. Here we present ambient airborne lead levels in El Paso, Texas, USA, parsed by particulate matter (PM) size fraction, geography, and season. Dichotomous samplers at 8 stations collected PM continuously for 1-week periods for nearly 4 years. Overall, airborne annual lead exposure throughout El Paso County is low, well within US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines. There is considerably more lead in the coarse fraction (PM10-PM2.5) than in the fine fraction (PM2.5 and lower), indicating decreased effective human exposures because the coarse fraction does not penetrate as deeply into the pulmonary system as finer particles. Re-entrained soil has previously been identified as the source of airborne lead in El Paso; the concentration of lead in the coarse PM is consistent with this observation. Seasonally, fall-winter lead levels are highest, due to PM trapping by temperature inversions, followed by spring and summer. Geospatially, higher lead levels characterize sampling stations in older and more commercial neighborhoods, also consistent with published maps of soil lead levels throughout the city and county. At present, airborne lead can be considered to be only a minor source of lead exposure for typical El Paso residents.

lead air pollution particulate matter El Paso

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