Demonstrating urban environmental changes using toxic metals of road dust and roadside soil in Chengdu, southwestern China


As one of the largest economical hubs in southwestern China, Chengdu is witnessing fast urbanization characterized by rapid urban sprawl, population growth, infrastructural construction, and motorization. However, this rapid urbanization may lead to environmental degradation, placing human health at risk. In this study, toxic metals in road dust and roadside soil are used as proxies to illustrate environmental changes of Chengdu. In August 2009, 133 dust and 132 soil samples were collected from the first, second and third ring roads, along which areas have urbanized for different times. By means of a portable X-ray fluorescence analyzer, concentrations of Pb, Zn and Cu in the samples were determined. The results indicate that the concentrations and contamination levels of Pb, Zn and Cu in dust declined significantly from the first to the third ring roads, paralleling the decreasing trends in traffic and building densities from the first to the third ring roads. However, concentrations of the three elements in roadside soil were relatively stable among the roads. These data may suggest that the metals in road dust can be used as proxies to demonstrate environmental degradation during the urbanization of Chengdu, while concentrations of the metals in roadside soil are affected more by natural factors (e.g., background concentrations, precipitation, and distance to road) than by anthropogenic factors (e.g., traffic and building densities). Furthermore, compared to Pb concentrations measured in the 1990s, Pb concentrations in road dust have been reduced most likely owing to the exclusion of leaded petrol since 2000. Similar situations may be found in many other cities that are experiencing fast urbanization.


Springer Verlag

Publication Date


Publication Title

Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment



Document Type




Urban pollution, Toxic metal, Road dust, Roadside soil, Urbanization, Traffic