Emerging airborne contaminants in India: Platinum Group Elements from catalytic converters in motor vehicles Academic Article uri icon


  • Platinum Group Element (PGE) pollution on the Indian subcontinent is a growing concern because vehicle sales in India have rapidly increased over the last decade, and it is well known that automobile catalytic converters are one of the major source of anthropogenic PGE in the environment. Despite the rapid growth of the Indian automobile industry, the sources and magnitude of PGE contamination in Indian airborne particles are unknown. In this study we report PGE and mercury (Hg) concentrations, as well as osmium isotope ratios (187Os/188Os) of airborne particles (PM10) collected in Kanpur, a large industrial city in India. We estimate that 61±22%, 32±24%, and 7±3% of the total Os fraction are derived from eroding upper continental crust, catalytic converters fitted in the exhaust system of motor vehicles, and fossil fuel combustion, respectively. Only one sample had a ten times higher (~76%) than average contribution from fossil fuel. Unlike Os, Pt is predominantly (84±10%) derived from anthropogenic sources. Platinum Group Element and Hg concentrations are not well correlated. However, the highest concentration of particulate Hg corresponds to the most radiogenic 187Os/188Os isotope ratios (4.6). Our results further indicated that PGE/Ir ratios could be successfully used to quantify the relative proportions of natural and anthropogenic PGE sources in aerosol samples. Since PGE and Hg data on Indian environmental samples are scarce, this study provides an interpretive framework that calls for additional assessments of PGE and Hg concentrations in environmental samples from India.

publication date

  • December 2016