Factors Affecting Total and Bioavailable Concentrations of Trace Metals in Surface Soils in the Kingston, Jamaica, Region

By Katherine Cook, Faith Jones, and Anna Velardi

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Melanie Szulczewski


This study investigated background levels of concerning metals in a variety of soils in and near Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. Minimal soil sample collection and analysis had occurred since a 1988 island-wide geochemical survey revealed very high concentrations of total Cd in many regions, along with elevated concentrations of As, Cu, Zn, and Cr in some types of soil, with background lead levels elevated only at specific polluted sites. An updated examination was deemed important due to a growing city population, increased fuel combustion, and intensive urban gardening. This study analyzed soils collected in 2022 for total metal concentrations, as well as bioavailable concentrations, previously only reported for lead. The typically basic soils in this urban center of a tropical country provided interesting preliminary results regarding metal content in the region’s soils. Arsenic and cadmium were detected in every soil, usually far exceeding US EPA cleanup levels. By contrast, Pb levels were lower than expected. Further analysis looked for correlations in the soil samples between metal concentrations and pH, organic matter content, and soil texture.


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