Articles | Volume 15, issue 17
Research article
09 Sep 2015
Research article |  | 09 Sep 2015

Quantitative assessment of atmospheric emissions of toxic heavy metals from anthropogenic sources in China: historical trend, spatial distribution, uncertainties, and control policies

H. Z. Tian, C. Y. Zhu, J. J. Gao, K. Cheng, J. M. Hao, K. Wang, S. B. Hua, Y. Wang, and J. R. Zhou

Abstract. Anthropogenic atmospheric emissions of typical toxic heavy metals have caused worldwide concern due to their adverse effects on human health and the ecosystem. By determining the best available representation of time-varying emission factors with S-shape curves, we establish the multiyear comprehensive atmospheric emission inventories of 12 typical toxic heavy metals (Hg, As, Se, Pb, Cd, Cr, Ni, Sb, Mn, Co, Cu, and Zn) from primary anthropogenic activities in China for the period of 1949–2012 for the first time. Further, we allocate the annual emissions of these heavy metals in 2010 at a high spatial resolution of 0.5° × 0.5° grid with ArcGIS methodology and surrogate indexes, such as regional population and gross domestic product (GDP). Our results show that the historical emissions of Hg, As, Se, Cd, Cr, Ni, Sb, Mn, Co, Cu, and Zn, during the period of 1949–2012, increased by about 22–128 times at an annual average growth rate of 5.1–8.0 %, reaching about 526.9–22 319.6 t in 2012. Nonferrous metal smelting, coal combustion of industrial boilers, brake and tyre wear, and ferrous metal smelting represent the dominant sources of heavy metal emissions. In terms of spatial variation, the majority of emissions are concentrated in relatively developed regions, especially for the northern, eastern, and southern coastal regions. In addition, because of the flourishing nonferrous metal smelting industry, several southwestern and central-southern provinces play a prominent role in some specific toxic heavy metals emissions, like Hg in Guizhou and As in Yunnan. Finally, integrated countermeasures are proposed to minimize the final toxic heavy metals discharge on account of the current and future demand of energy-saving and pollution reduction in China.

Short summary
For the first time, with S-shaped curves, the best available representation of time-varying emission factors of 12 heavy metals (Hg, As, Se, Pb, Cd, Cr, Ni, Sb, Mn, Co, Cu and Zn) from primary anthropogenic sources of China are determined on account of economic transitions and pollution control technology improvement. The temporal and spatial variation characteristics of these heavy metals emissions during the period of 1949−2012 are calculated and evaluated with uncertainty analysis.
Final-revised paper