Green and blue infrastructure as model system for emissions of technology-critical elements

Simone Trimmel, Philipp Spörl, Daniela Haluza, Nagi Lashin, Thomas C. Meisel, Ulrike Pitha, Thomas Prohaska, Markus Puschenreiter, Elmar Rückert, Bernhard Spangl, Dominik Wiedenhofer, Johanna Irrgeher

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftArtikelForschungBegutachtung


Over the recent decades, technological advancements have led to a rise in the use of so-called technology-critical elements (TCEs). Environmental monitoring of TCEs forms the base to assess whether this leads to increased anthropogenic release and to public health implications. This study employs an exploratory approach to investigate the distribution of the TCEs Li, Be, V, Ga, Ge, Nb, Sb, Te, Ta, Tl, Bi and the REYs (rare-earth elements including yttrium) in urban aerosol in the city of Vienna, Austria.

Leaf samples (n = 292) from 8 plant species and two green facades and water samples (n = 18) from the Wienfluss river were examined using inductively coupled plasma tandem mass spectrometry (ICP-MS/MS). Surface dust contributions were assessed by washing one replicate of each leaf sample and analysing the washing water (n = 146). The impacts of sampling month, plant species and storey level on elemental distribution were assessed by statistical tools and generative deep neural network modelling. Higher TCE levels, including Li, V, Ga, Ge, Tl, Bi, and the REYs, were found in the winter months, likely due to the use of de-icing materials and fossil fuel combustion. A. millefolium and S. heufleriana displayed the highest levels of Li and Ge, respectively. In addition, increased elemental accumulation at lower storeys was observed, including Be, Sb, Bi and the REYs, indicating greater atmospheric dust deposition and recirculation closer to ground level.

The results suggest a broad association of TCE levels with urban dust. This study enhances the current understanding of TCE distribution in urban settings and underscores the importance of their inclusion in pollution monitoring. It highlights the complex interplay of human activities, urban infrastructure, and environmental factors, offering valuable insights for managing urban environmental health risks and underlining the need for comprehensive urban ecosystem studies.
FachzeitschriftScience of the total environment
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 20 Mai 2024

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