Stable Isotopes of Lead and Strontium as Tracers of Sources of Airborne Particulate Matter in Kyrgyzstan

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College of Natual Science and Mathematics, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Air pollution, Soils, Sediments, Long-range transport, Strontium (Sr) isotopes, Lead (Pb) isotopes, Aral Sea, Central Asia


Central Asia is dominated by an arid climate and desert-like conditions, leading to the potential for long-range transport of desert dust within and out of the region. Of particular interest is the Aral Sea, which has receded in size largely due to water diversion. As a result, newly exposed sediments are resuspended by wind and thus, may be a potential new source of particulate matter within the region. Here, strontium and lead stable isotope ratios are employed along with detailed elemental composition, to explore the contribution of long-range transport of Aral Sea sediments, as well as other potential sources of dust, within Central Asia. Ambient PM10 samples were collected during dust and non-dust events from mid-2008 to mid-2009 at two sites in Kyrgyzstan located ∼1200 and 1500 km ESE of the Aral Sea. Aral Sea sediments and local Kyrgyzstan soils were resuspended and sized to PM10. The Aral Sea sediments have an average 87Sr/86Sr ratio of 0.70992. In contrast, the Sr isotope ratio in local soils exhibits an average ratio of 0.71579. Ambient PM10 collected in Kyrgyzstan has an average 87Sr/86Sr ratio of 0.71177, falling between the values of these two potential sources and indicating a complex mixture of contributing sources. At both sites, airborne Sr isotope ratios measured during dust events were similar, suggesting that Aral Sea sediments only minimally affect air quality in Kyrgyzstan. Elemental analysis and Pb isotope ratios supported this finding. While the Pb isotopes and elemental data both indicate an anthropogenic source, long-range dust transport from other deserts inside and outside the region cannot be ruled out as sources of PM10 in Central Asia.

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