Backyard aerosol pollution monitors: foliar surfaces, dust enrichment, and factors influencing foliar retention

Kira Zeider, Iliana Manjón, Eric A. Betterton, A. Eduardo Sáez, Armin Sorooshian, Mónica D. Ramírez-Andreotta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Air pollution is one of the leading causes of death from noncommunicable diseases globally, and in Arizona, both mining activities and abandoned agriculture can generate erodible dust. This dust is transported via wind and can carry high amounts of toxic pollutants. Industry-adjacent communities, or “fenceline communities,” are generally closer to the pollution sources and are disproportionally impacted by pollution, or in this case, dust. The dust transported from the mine settles into nearby rivers, gardens, and homes, and increases the concentrations of elements beyond their naturally occurring amounts (i.e., enriched). This study was built upon previous community science work in which plant leaves were observed to collect similar concentrations to an accepted dust collection method and illustrated promise for their use as low-cost air quality monitors in these communities. This work investigated the concentration of Na, Mg, Al, K, Ca, Mn, Co, Cu, Zn, Mo, and Ba in dust from the leaves of community-collected backyard and garden plants (foliar dust), as well as if certain variables affected collection efficacy. This assessment evaluated (1) foliar concentration versus surface area for 11 elements, (2) enrichment factor (EF) values and ratios, (3) comparisons of foliar, garden, and yard samples to US Geological Survey data, and (4) what variable significantly affected dust collection efficacy. The EF results indicate that many of the samples were enriched (anthropogenically contaminated) and that the foliar samples were generally more contaminated than the yard and garden soil samples. Leaf surface area was the most influential factor for leaf collection efficiency (p < 0.05) compared to plant family or sampling location. Further studies are needed that standardize the plant species and age and include multiple replicates of the same plant species across partnering communities. This study has demonstrated that foliar dust is enriched in the participating partnering communities and that plant leaf samples can serve as backyard aerosol pollution monitors. Therefore, foliar dust is a viable indicator of outdoor settled dust and aerosol contamination and this is an adoptable monitoring technique for “fenceline communities.”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1200
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Air monitor
  • Co-created community science
  • Foliar
  • Fugitive dust
  • Mining

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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