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The distribution of lead in a roadside environment and its consequences for health

Public Health
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0033-3506(80)80118-1


The distribution of deposited and absorbed lead originating from vehicle exhaust emissions along a section of the A52 trunk road is examined. Significant quantities of the metal are found. Roadside dust contains up to 210 ppm with both dilution and concentration occurring at different locations after rainfall. The level of contamination in soil is shown to relate to the distance from the roadway and the depth of sampling. Grasses growing on the verges retain airborne lead-containing particles which then concentrate into the upper levels of the soil. Blackberry plants absorb 1·6 ppm of lead in their shoots whilst the fruit is contaminated with up to 6·36 ppm, mainly as a surface deposit, at sites adjacent to lay-bys where gathering is most facile. The pattern of distribution observed suggests that fruit and vegetables grown in gardens in close proximity to a major roadway may present a potential health hazard. Where possible new houses should not be built with gardens extending to within 15 m of such a road. Wild blackberry fruit collected from the hedgerows in areas of high traffic density could significantly add to the lead body burden; particularly when used to make preserves where up to 4 ppm could be present. Steps should be taken to warn the public of the inherent dangers in such wild fruit and Local Councils should remove readily accessible plants.

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