Release of Particles Containing Metals from Vegetation into the Atmosphere

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Science  11 Feb 1977:
Vol. 195, Issue 4278, pp. 571-573
DOI: 10.1126/science.195.4278.571


Studies with radioisotopes indicate that in the laboratory pea plants and pine tree seedlings release zinc and lead into the atmosphere. Field studies carried out on radiolabeled plots vegetated with a variety of grasses and small herbaceous plants also show that these elements are released into the atmosphere. The metals, associated with particles of various sizes, are released from the plant surfaces, and the loss mechanism is influenced by growth conditions, the concentrations of the elements in the leaves, and meteorological factors. For plants whose leaves have about equal concentrations of zinc and lead, the amount of zinc released is usually two orders of magnitude greater than the amount of lead. The significance of the process is discussed in terms of the overall trace metal composition of atmospheric particulates.