Lead in particulate matter

Ein Auto steht in einer Tiefgarage.Click to enlarge
Road traffic is an important lead emission source.
Source: B. Plank / Fotolia.com

Lead is a toxic heavy metal and usually occurs bound to other substances. In ambient air lead is measured bound to particulate matter.

Table of Contents


Emission sources

Until the beginning of the 1990s road traffic used to be the main emission source. Lead compounds were used as anti-knock additives in petrol. Car exhausts lead to an immense environmental pollution. Even today road traffic is an important emission source as lead is emitted by tire and brake abrasion. Further emissions are released by metal processing industry and when fossil fuels are combusted.


Health risks

Lead and its compounds are well resorbed by the human lungs. Nevertheless, lead is mainly obtained from food. Especially children’s nervous systems are damaged by little amounts which can obstruct mental development. The haemopoietic system and the blood pressure of adults are affected when the poisoning is chronic. Lead and its inorganic compounds are classified to be probably cancerogenic.


Air quality standards

There is an Europe-wide limit value of 0.5 µg/m³ as annual mean that is valid since 1 January 2005


Air pollution

Since 2007 the limit value was not exceeded in Germany, the concentrations are significantly below the limit value.

In urban areas, average concentrations are at the moment approx. 6 ng/m³, in rural areas 2 ng/m³. Higher concentrations are measured close to industry, there they are about six times higher than in urban areas. The lowest concentrations are measured at the very remote stations of the Environment Agency (2 ng/m³).

Lead in particulate matter - annual mean values 2007 - 2021
Lead in particulate matter - annual mean values 2007 - 2021
Source: Umweltbundesamt II 4.2 mit Daten der Messnetze der Länder und des Bundes

Lead in particulate matter - Annual tabulation

Here the annual tabulations from 2007 onwards can be found (station-by-station).