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Atmospheric Deposition of Indium in the Northeastern United States: Flux and Historical Trends

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journal contribution
posted on 03.11.2015 by Sarah Jane O. White, Carrie Keach, Harold F. Hemond
The metal indium is an example of an increasingly important material used in electronics and new energy technologies, whose environmental behavior and toxicity are poorly understood despite increasing evidence of detrimental health impacts and human-induced releases to the environment. In the present work, the history of indium deposition from the atmosphere is reconstructed from its depositional record in an ombrotrophic bog in Massachusetts. A novel freeze-coring technique is used to overcome coring difficulties posed by woody roots and peat compressibility, enabling retrieval of relatively undisturbed peat cores dating back more than a century. Results indicate that long-range atmospheric transport is a significant pathway for the transport of indium, with peak concentrations of 69 ppb and peak fluxes of 1.9 ng/cm2/yr. Atmospheric deposition to the bog began increasing in the late 1800s/early 1900s, and peaked in the early 1970s. A comparison of deposition data with industrial production and emissions estimates suggests that both coal combustion and the smelting of lead, zinc, copper, and tin sulfides are sources of indium to the atmosphere in this region. Deposition appears to have decreased considerably since the 1970s, potentially a visible effect of particulate emissions controls instated in North America during that decade.