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Natural levels of lead and cadmium in a remote mountain stream

Erel, Yigal and Morgan, James J. and Patterson, C. C. (1991) Natural levels of lead and cadmium in a remote mountain stream. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 55 (3). pp. 707-719. ISSN 0016-7037. doi:10.1016/0016-7037(91)90335-3.

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Lead and cadmium concentrations in marine and terrestrial ecosystems, on surfaces of soil particles, and in the atmosphere have been highly elevated on a global scale because of industrial pollution. In order to ascertain the natural (rock-derived) levels of lead and cadmium in streams, a pristine mountain watershed in the Sierra Nevada, California, was studied in respect to its lead and cadmium contents. The transport of lead and cadmium was compared to iron since it shares similar transport patterns with lead and cadmium, and is relatively uninfluenced by pollution. The concentrations of lead and cadmium in a late-summer mountain drainage water are shown to be close to natural levels that are controlled by the weathering of bedrock and soil. This is demonstrated by (1) measurements of lead isotopic composition, and Fe/Pb ratios in stream water, ground water, soil and bedrock, and (2) the rapid removal rate of excess atmospheric lead and cadmium from the water as it flows downstream. Lead is taken up by particles (mostly hydrous iron oxides) in the studied stream during the autumn at a relatively constant rate. On the other hand, cadmium behavior in the stream water is erratic and cannot be explained by the same adsorption mechanism as lead. The Fe/Pb ratio is constant within an order of magnitude in the bedrock, the soil, soil and rock leachates, unfiltered and filtered ground water, and in filtered and unfiltered stream water. Therefore, the Fe/Pb ratio may provide a first-order estimate for the concentration of natural lead in streams draining through granitoid bedrocks.

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Additional Information:© 1991 Pergamon Press. Received July 26, 1990; accepted in revised form December 30, 1990. The field work was partly supported by GSA grant 3974-88. The authors wish to thank K. Tonnesson of the California ARB and R. Graham, D. Marrett and J. Ervin from UCR. They also thank J. Hem, M. Edmunds, and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments.
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GSA grant3974-88
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Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences4954
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140523-130813993
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Official Citation:Yigal Erel, James J. Morgan, C.C. Patterson, Natural levels of lead and cadmium in a remote mountain stream, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Volume 55, Issue 3, March 1991, Pages 707-719, ISSN 0016-7037, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:45911
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:27 May 2014 16:36
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 17:18

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