Factsheet #2: Dissolved lead

3D scenes showing the distribution of dissolved iron in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian. This tracer is of anthropogenic origin. In warm colours (red, orange, etc.) you can view high concentrations of dissolved lead. The dominant input into the North Atlantic and spreading with the main deep water masses are clearly visible on the Atlantic Ocean map.

Increased usage and then phasing-out of leaded-petrol since the mid-70’s yielded a decrease of this contamination. By measuring lead concentrations and isotopes GEOTRACES scientists reveal for the first time that natural lead can be detected again in the surface water of the North Atlantic. Indeed, significant proportions of up to 30–50% of natural Pb, derived from mineral dust, are observed in Atlantic surface waters off the Sahara. This clearly reflects the success of the global effort to reduce anthropogenic Pb emissions.

Atlantic Ocean:

Indian Ocean:

Pacific Ocean:

South Pacific Ocean:


Data is available to download after registration here: https://geotraces.webodv.awi.de/login

Discoveries include:

Spatial and temporal variability of bioactive trace metals, speciation and organic metal-binding ligands in the eastern Gulf of Mexico

Mellett and Buck present the concentrations of bioactive trace metals (Fe, Cu, Mn, Zn, Co, Ni, Cd, and Pb), Fe-and Cu-binding organic ligands, and electroactive Fe-binding humic substances in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

About the decoupled fates of aluminium, manganese, cobalt and lead in the North Pacific Ocean

Did you know that each of these tracers could follow its own marine story, quite decoupled from the others? This is what is shown and discussed by Zheng and co-workers […]

Testament of the efficiency of environmental policies

Human activities, such as the combustion of leaded petrol, emissions from non-ferrous metal smelting, coal combustion and waste incineration constitute major environmental lead (Pb) sources during the past century. This […]

Study of North Atlantic Ocean reveals decline of leaded petrol emissions, September 2016

Nature Communications (September 2016) Bridgestock, L., van de Flierdt, T., Rehkämper, M., Paul, M., Middag, R., Milne, A., Lohan, M.C., Baker, A.R., Chance, R.,, Khondoker, R., Strekopytov, S., Humphreys-Williams, E., […]

Decreasing of the industrial lead contamination in the Amundsen Sea area

Since the phasing-out of leaded automobile gasoline, the imprint of industrial lead is decreasing everywhere. Antarctica snow and ice are no exception to this general rule, as shown by measurements of […]

Lead isotopes tracks leakage of Indian Ocean seawater into the Atlantic Ocean

Stable lead isotopes have been measured by Maxence Paul and co-workers along 40°S during the first and second legs of the UK GEOTRACES cruise (GA10) in the Atlantic Ocean. They […]

A new method to measure lead isotopes in the ocean with an outstanding precision

A new method for the determination of seawater lead (Pb) isotope compositions and concentrations was developed, which combines and optimizes previously published protocols for the separation and isotopic analysis of […]

Analyzing rapidly, precisely and semi-automatically lead isotopes on variable volumes of seawater (up to 1000 ml)

Zurbrick and co-authors present a relatively fast (2.5–6.5 hours), semi-automated system to extract lead (Pb) from seawater, with few chemicals yielding low blanks. They also demonstrate that subsequent Pb isotopic […]