Metal accumulation in roadside soils of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: impact of traffic volume, road age, and urbanization level

Cassiano A.R. Bernardino, Claudio F. Mahler, Ricardo E. Santelli, Aline S. Freire, Bernardo F. Braz, Luís A.B. Novo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Traffic-related metal emissions have become a global concern due to their deposition in roadside soils and potential hazardous effects. This study evaluates metal levels in soils adjoining four highways of Rio de Janeiro (Linha Vermelha, Via Dutra, BR-465, and Avenida Brasil), chosen for their diverse traffic volumes, age, and urban/rural settings. In addition to soil physicochemical properties, 11 elements (Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sr, V, and Zn) were assessed on samples collected at different distances from the road (1, 3, 5, 10, 15 m) and soil depths (0–15 and 15–30 cm). Moreover, the geoaccumulation index was also computed to infer the soil contamination extent. The results indicate that soil metal levels at each highway are highly dependent on factors like traffic volume, distance to road, other anthropogenic sources of pollution, and their rural or urban location. The highways with greater traffic volume, Linha Vermelha and Avenida Brasil (154,000 and 126,000 vehicles day −1 , respectively), clearly presented the highest soil metal concentrations. Still, as stressed by the principal component analysis, traffic volume alone fails to explain the distribution of metals in soils neighboring these highways. Thus, factors like their urban setting and larger exposure to anthropogenic activities may play a pivotal role. On the other hand, soils from Via Dutra and BR-465, both on a rural backdrop, were mostly influenced by traffic as their metal levels decreased with increasing distances from the road. Comparison with reference and preventive values for Brazilian soils and the assessment of the geoaccumulation index have shown that concentrations of Pb and V have reached concerning thresholds at Linha Vermelha and Avenida Brasil.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number3
Early online date12 Feb 2019
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Highways
  • Metal emissions
  • Metal pollution
  • Soil pollution
  • Traffic


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