Sediment profiles of less commonly determined elements measured by Laser Ablation ICP-MS

Marvourneen K. Dolor, George R. Helz, William F. McDonough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Anthropogenic influences on trace element profiles in dated sediments from estuaries have been often documented, with the vast majority of studies focusing on a short list of high-abundance trace elements. Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) provides a new approach that minimizes sample preparation and contamination while yielding data on a much larger list of elements simultaneously. We present concentrations and enrichment factor profiles for 22 elements at a locality that is 50 km southeast of Baltimore, the principal industrial city on Chesapeake Bay. Samples representing deposition over almost the entire 20th century were obtained from two archived cores collected 20 years apart. The following elements exhibit profiles consistent with a strong anthropogenic influence, i.e. enrichment after 1920 followed by decline after ca.1980, possibly reflecting increased regulatory efforts: Mn, Co, Cu, Zn, Ag, Cd, In, Sn, Sb, Te, Tl, Pb and Bi. As expected, the redox-sensitive elements: Mo, Re and U have similar profiles to one another. Previously, the potentially hazardous elements, Ag, In, Sb, Te, Tl and Bi, have been measured only rarely in estuarine sediments and never in Chesapeake Bay. Our discovery that their profiles track those of well-known pollutants underscores a need to investigate their sources, transport and biogeochemical behavior. Several rarely determined trace elements, Ga, Ge and Nb, exhibit trendless profiles, as do the major elements, Ti and Fe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-192
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number4-7
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Chesapeake Bay
  • Estuary
  • Laser Ablation ICP-MS
  • Sediment profiles
  • Trace elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


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