Evaporation as the transport mechanism of metals in arid regions


Lima, Ana T.
Safar, Zeinab
Loch, J.P. Gustav


Soils of arid regions are exposed to drought and drastic temperature oscillations throughout the year. Transport mechanisms in these soils are therefore very different from the ones in temperate regions, where rain dictates the fate of most elements in soils. Due to the low rainfall and high evaporation rates in arid regions, groundwater quality is not threatened and all soil contamination issues tend to be overlooked. But if soil contamination happens, where do contaminants go? This study tests the hypothesis of upward metal movement in soils when evaporation is the main transport mechanism. Laboratory evaporation tests were carried out with heavy metal spiked Saudi soil, using circulation of air as the driving force (Fig. 1). Main results show that loamy soil retains heavy metals quite well while evaporation drives heavy metals to the surface of a sandy soil. Evaporation transports heavy metals upward in sandy soils of arid regions, making them accumulate at the soil surface. Sand being the dominating type of soil in arid regions, soils can then be a potential source of contaminated aerosols and atmospheric pollution - a transboundary problem. Some other repercussions for this problem are foreseen, such as the public ingestion or inhalation of dust. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Lima AT, Safar Z, Loch JPG (2014) Evaporation as the transport mechanism of metals in arid regions. Chemosphere 111: 638–647. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.05.027.

The authors would like to thank Wael Al-Moazen, from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia, for providing us with the inestimable help during our sampling campaign in this country. Pieter Kleingeld (Utrecht University) is, as always, greatly acknowledged for his tips and ideas in the lab.

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