Atmospheric mineral dust exerts many important effects on the Earth system, such as atmospheric temperatures, marine productivity, and melting of snow and ice. Mineral dust also can have detrimental effects on human health through respiration of very small particles and the leaching of metals in various organs. These effects can be better understood through characterization of the physical and chemical properties of dust, including certain iron oxide minerals, for their extraordinary radiative properties and possible effects on lung inflammation. Studies of dust from the Nellis Dunes recreation area near Las Vegas, Nevada, focus on characteristics of radiative properties (capacity of dust to absorb solar radiation), iron oxide mineral type and size, chemistry, and bioaccessibility of metals in fluids that simulate human gastric, lung, and phagolysosomal fluids. In samples of dust from the Nellis Dunes recreation area with median grain sizes of 2.4, 3.1, and 4.3 micrometers, the ferric oxide minerals goethite and hematite, at least some of it nanosized, were identified. In one sample, in vitro bioaccessibility experiments revealed high bioaccessibility of arsenic in all three biofluids and higher leachate concentration and bioaccessibility for copper, uranium, and vanadium in the simulated lung fluid than in the phagolysosomal fluid. The combination of methods used here to characterize mineral dust at the Nellis Dunes recreation area can be applied to global dust and broad issues of public health.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Iron mineralogy and bioaccessibility of dust generated from soils as determined by reflectance spectroscopy and magnetic and chemical properties--Nellis Dunes recreational area, Nevada
Scientific Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey
Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center