Evaluation of airborne particulates and associated metals originating from steel slag applied to rural unpaved roads

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Monday, December 12, 2022
James Kacer
Ralph Altmaier
Drew Latta
Patrick T. O'Shaughnessy
David M. Cwiertny
Journal Title: 
Environmental Sciences: Atmospheres

Various metals have toxic effects by the inhalation route, and electric arc furnace (EAF) steel slag is known to contain metals with a potential for toxicity to humans. In some states, EAF slag is applied to unpaved (gravel) roads as a low-cost supplement to limestone and other crushed stone, where it may be a public health concern for the local population. This study compared the mass of selected metals in the PM10 size fraction of fugitive dust from roads where slag was applied to metals in fugitive dust where slag was not applied. Manganese, designated by the EPA as a hazardous air pollutant (HAP) and one of the primary metals of concern in the slag, was 1.3 times more concentrated in the PM10 fraction from the slag-covered roads as compared to the PM10 fraction from the non-slag-covered roads, but that increase was not significant (p = 0.26). Other metals detected in the airborne dust from both slag-covered and non-slag-covered roads that are also designated as HAPs are antimony, arsenic, chromium, cobalt, lead, nickel, and selenium. In addition, hourly sampling of PM10 and metals in the PM10 fraction was conducted at one of the sample locations where slag had been applied to the road. Manganese mass in the PM10 was positively correlated (Spearman r = 0.86) with the particulate mass in the PM10. Wind direction and the interaction of traffic and wind direction were found to be statistically significant factors affecting manganese concentrations in the fugitive emissions from the road to which EAF slag had been applied. This research demonstrated that application of steel slag can result in elevated levels of manganese in the airborne dust generated by vehicular traffic on the unpaved roadway.


Kacer, J., Altmaier, R., Latta, D., O'Shaughnessy, P. T., & Cwiertny, D. M. (2023). Evaluation of airborne particulates and associated metals originating from steel slag applied to rural unpaved roads. Environmental Science: Atmospheres. DOI: 10.1039/D2EA00040G