The global biogeochemical cycles of several trace metals are presently dominated by human activities, a result of the nature and magnitude of historical resource consumption. Lead has been mined since ancient times, often as a by-product of silver extraction, and has one of the longest associations with man of all heavy metals [Nriagu, 1983]. As of 1983, human activities accounted for an estimated 97% of the global mass balance of lead [Nriagu and Pacyna, 1988]. At that time as well as today, most of the lead was derived from leaded gasoline [Nriagu, 1990], where it was used as an anti-knock agent.
New estimates of anthropogenic sources of lead suggest that the overall burden of anthropogenic lead emissions has decreased but new pollution sources (e.g., China, Mexico) have become important [Pacyna and Pacyna, 2001; Pacyna et al., 1995] leaving anthropogenic Pb emission to remain a global problem and leaded gasoline as the main source. In addition, as metals are not biodegradable, the Pb in the environment has accumulated over the decades and its fate and pathways within the ecosystem need to be investigated.
In a manner similar to chlorofluorocarbons and radionuclides derived from atomic testing, the release of lead into the environment represents an inadvertent geochemical tracer experiment, providing new insights into its fate and transport within marine and terrestrial systems. There have been several review papers and books discussing lead, its historical place in society and its impact on human and environmental health [Boutron, 1995; Needleman, 1997; Nriagu, 1983; Nriagu, 1989b; Nriagu, 1990; Reuer and Weiss, 2002; Shotyk and Le Roux, 2005; Weiss et al., 1999] and the reader is encouraged to refer to these works as well.
Imperial College Press , 2007. 344- p.