Real-Time Subsecond Voltammetric Analysis of Pb in Aqueous Environmental Samples

Lead (Pb) pollution is an important environmental and public health concern. Rapid Pb transport during stormwater runoff significantly impairs surface water quality. The ability to characterize and model Pb transport during these events is critical to mitigating its impact on the environment. However, Pb analysis is limited by the lack of analytical methods that can afford rapid, sensitive measurements in situ. While electrochemical methods have previously shown promise for rapid Pb analysis, they are currently limited in two ways. First, because of Pb’s limited solubility, test solutions that are representative of environmental systems are not typically employed in laboratory characterizations. Second, concerns about traditional Hg electrode toxicity, stability, and low temporal resolution have dampened opportunities for in situ analyses with traditional electrochemical methods. In this paper, we describe two novel methodological advances that bypass these limitations. Using geochemical models, we first create an environmentally relevant test solution that can be used for electrochemical method development and characterization. Second, we develop a fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) method for Pb detection on Hg-free carbon fiber microelectrodes. We assess the method’s sensitivity and stability, taking into account Pb speciation, and utilize it to characterize rapid Pb fluctuations in real environmental samples. We thus present a novel real-time electrochemical tool for Pb analysis in both model and authentic environmental solutions.