Road dust as a by-product of exhaust and non-exhaust emissions can be a major cause of systemic oxidative stress and multiple disorders. Substantial amounts of road dust are repeatedly resuspended, in particular at traffic lights and junctions where more braking is involved, causing potential threat to pedestrians, especially children. In order to determine the degree of contamination in the heavily traffic-congested cities of Poland, a total of 148 samples of road dust (RD), sludge from storm drains (SL) and roadside soil (RS) were collected. Sixteen metals were analysed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) in all samples. Chemical evaluation followed by Principal Component Analysis (PCA) revealed that road environments have been severely contaminated with traffic-related elements. Concentration of copper in all road-environment samples is even higher, exceeding even up to 15 times its average concentrations established for the surrounding soils. Non-carcinogenic health risk assessment revealed that the hazard index (HI) for children in all road-environment samples exceeds the safe level of 1. Therefore, greater attention should be paid to potential health risks caused by the ingestion of traffic-related particles during outdoor activities.
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