Anthropogenic lead inputs to the western Pacific during the 20th century

Mayuri Inoue, Masaharu Tanimizu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Unlike in the North Atlantic, no continuous record of anthropogenic lead (Pb) has been available in the western Pacific. We reconstructed historical changes in anthropogenic Pb on the basis of Pb isotope ratios recorded in annually-banded coral retrieved from Ogasawara Island, Japan. Whereas the predominant natural source of Pb to the surface of the western Pacific apparently is Chinese loess, anthropogenic Pb has affected the western Pacific at least since the late 19th century. From the late 19th to the early 20th century, Australian Pb used in Japan was an important source of anthropogenic Pb. During 1920-1940, Pb emitted from parts of the world other than Japan contributed somewhat to the western Pacific, and the amount of Pb imported from Australia declined. Alkyl Pb used in Japan became the main source from 1950 until the mid-1970s, when leaded gasoline began to be regulated in Japan. Since the mid-1980s, aerosols from China have been the predominant source of Pb in the western Pacific. During the 1990s, around 60% of Pb in the surface of the western Pacific was from Chinese aerosols. We also investigated the present spatial distribution and likely sources of Pb in the western Pacific by using coral samples. Enrichment in 208Pb, which is a characteristic of Pb from China, was found in all coral samples except that from Pohnpei, Micronesia, suggesting that at present anthropogenic Pb is transported to the western Pacific mainly from China via westerly winds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-130
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 15 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Annual bands
  • Anthropogenic lead
  • Coral
  • Western Pacific

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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