Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China; University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 10049, China. Electronic address: [Email]
The road dust found in mining areas is composed of dust from multiple sources, including wind transported mineral dust from mines and tailings as well as uncovered trucks leakage. Collectively, these are then distributed via wind and traffic activity, becoming an important source of particulate matter (PM) and subsequently inhaled by pedestrians. A common practice in previous road dust risk assessments has regarded them as soil, which likely led to a significant underestimation of the actual inhaled amount. To more accurately understand the inhalation risk presented by road dust in mining areas, the study applied a detailed pollution analysis and dust dispersion model to assess the inhaled amount of road dust. Road dust samples located at different distances to the mine and tailings were collected and sieved to 10 μm (RD10). Enrichment factors (EFs) of Ce, As, Cd, and Mo exceeded 20 across most sampled sites, suggesting extreme pollution. Source analysis indicated that most of the collected RD10 had greater than half of its mass originating from the mine. To assess the risk presented by inhalation exposure to local populations, we built a method using Gaussian diffusion model and two exposure scenarios for both adults and children were considered. The level of simulated particle concentrations was comparable to that described in the literature; the inhalation of potential toxic elements (PTEs) in RD10 led to health risks for both adults and children (adult and child HI > 1, with adults CR in industrial areas >10-4). Results also indicated that a ten-fold reduction of silt load resulted in a >4-fold decrease in risk. Collectively, the results suggest that fine road dust is a potential hotspot for mineral exposure in populations living around a mine and its tailings; moreover, that effective prevention measures like road cleaning and truck regulation are urgently needed.