The 180 ship recycling yards located on Alang-Sosiya beach in the State of Gujarat on the west coast of India is the world's largest cluster engaged in dismantling. Yearly 350 ships have been dismantled (avg. 10,000 ton steel/ship) with the involvement of about 60,000 workers. Cutting and scrapping of plates or scraping of painted metal surfaces happens to be the commonly performed operation during ship breaking. The pollutants released from a typical plate-cutting operation can potentially either affect workers directly by contaminating the breathing zone (air pollution) or can potentially add pollution load into the intertidal zone and contaminate sediments when pollutants get emitted in the secondary working zone and gets subjected to tidal forces. There was a two-pronged purpose behind the mathematical modeling exercise performed in this study. First, to estimate the zone of influence up to which the effect of plume would extend. Second, to estimate the cumulative maximum concentration of heavy metals that can potentially occur in ambient atmosphere of a given yard. The cumulative maximum heavy metal concentration was predicted by the model to be between 113 mu g/Nm(3) and 428 mu g/Nm(3) (at 4 m/s and 1 m/s near-ground wind speeds, respectively). For example, centerline concentrations of lead (Pb) in the yard could be placed between 8 and 30 mu g/Nm(3). These estimates are much higher than the Indian National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Pb (0.5 mu g/Nm(3)). This research has already become the critical science and technology inputs for formulation of policies for ecofriendly dismantling of ships, formulation of ideal procedure and corresponding health, safety, and environment provisions. The insights obtained from this research are also being used in developing appropriate technologies for minimizing exposure to workers and minimizing possibilities of causing heavy metal pollution in the intertidal zone of ship recycling yards in India. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.