Agricultural abandoned lands as emission sources of dust containing metals and pesticides in the Sonora-Arizona Desert

Jesús Arturo Bracamonte-Terán, Diana Meza-Figueroa*, Leticia García-Rico*, Benedetto Schiavo, María Mercedes Meza-Montenegro, Ana Isabel Valenzuela-Quintanar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This investigation examines the transport of metal- and pesticide-polluted dust emitted by one of the most relevant agricultural areas of Northwestern Mexico. In the contaminated area, an excessive water extraction of the aquifer and seawater intrusion caused the abandonment of fields, which are pollutant-loaded dust emitters. We used air mass forward trajectories (HYSPLIT) model to obtain particle trajectories in the wind and the use of banned pesticides as geochemical tracers for dust transported by wind. Fifty dust samples from 10 agriculture fields and 26 roof dust of a city close to the agricultural area were analyzed for their contents of zirconium, lead, arsenic, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, vanadium, and titanium, by portable X-ray fluorescence. Nine pesticides were analyzed in the roof dust and agricultural soil samples by gas chromatography. Results show that the distribution of metals was significantly different between active and abandoned fields. Arsenic-lead-copper was mainly concentrated in abandoned fields, while zinc-iron-manganese-titanium was dominant in active fields. Two potential sources of metal contamination were found by principal component analysis (PCA): (I) a mixture of traffic and agricultural sources and (II) a group related to agricultural activities. The occurrence of banned pesticides in dust deposited on roofs collected at nearby cities confirms the atmospheric transport from the agricultural area. The HYSPLIT results indicated that the dust emitted from agricultural fields can reach up to the neighboring states of Sonora, Mexico, and the USA. The impacts that these emissions can have on human health should be studied in future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1496
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Agricultural soils
  • Arid zones
  • Dust transport
  • Metals


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