Lead isotopic signatures in Antarctic marine sediment cores: A comparison between 1 M HCl partial extraction and HF total digestion pre-treatments for discerning anthropogenic inputs
Townsend, AT and Snape, I and Palmer, AS and Seen, AJ, Lead isotopic signatures in Antarctic marine sediment cores: A comparison between 1 M HCl partial extraction and HF total digestion pre-treatments for discerning anthropogenic inputs, The Science of The Total Environment, 408, (2) pp. 382 - 389. ISSN 0048-9697 (2009) [Refereed Article]
Sensitive analytical techniques are typically required when dealing with samples from Antarctica as even low concentrations of contaminants can have detrimental environmental effects. Magnetic Sector ICP-MS is an ideal technique for environmental assessment as it offers high sensitivity, multi-element capability and the opportunity to determine isotope ratios. Here we consider the Pb isotope record of five marine sediment cores collected from three sites in the Windmill Islands area of East Antarctica: Brown Bay adjacent to the current Australian station Casey, Wilkes near the abandoned US/Australian Station and McGrady Cove lying midway between the two. Two sediment pre-treatment approaches were considered, namely partial extraction with 1 M HCl and total dissolution involving HF. Lead isotope ratio measurements made following sediment partial extraction provided a more sensitive indication of Pb contamination than either Pb concentrations alone (irrespective of sample pre-treatment method) or isotope ratios made after HF digestion, offering greater opportunity for discrimination between impacted and natural/geogenic samples and sites. Over 90% of the easily extractable Pb from sediments near Casey was anthropogenic in origin, consisting of Pb from major Australian deposits. At Wilkes impact from discarded batteries with a unique isotopic signature was found to be a key source of Pb contamination to the marine environment with ~ 70–80% of Pb being anthropogenic in origin. The country and source of origin of these batteries remain unknown. Little evidence was found suggesting contamination at Wilkes by Pb originating from the major US source, Missouri. No definitive assessment could be made regarding Pb impact at McGrady Cove as the collected sediment core was of insufficient depth. Although Pb isotope ratio signatures may indicate anthropogenic input, spatial concentration gradients at nearby Brown Bay suggest contamination at McGrady Cove is unlikely. We recommend Pb isotopic analysis following 1 M HCl partial extraction pre-treatment as a powerful and sensitive method for tracing Pb contamination in marine sediments.
Antarctica; Casey Station; Human impacts; Metal pollution; Lead isotope ratios; ICP-MS