Recent snow from two sites in the Antarctic Peninsula has been analyzed for Al, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn. Measurement of full procedural blanks and of the extent of penetration of surface contamination has allowed a rigorous appraisal of both sampling and analytical methods. Whilst the particular samples of cored firn used here have been shown to be unsuitable due to penetration of surface contamination into their interiors, surface samples collected directly into acrylic tubes showed very limited penetration of contamination. The surface samples gave the following average concentrations: Al: 0.7±0.3 ng g−1, Cd: 0.26±0.09 pg g−1, Cu: 1.9±0.5 pg g−1, Pb: 6.3±3.3 pg g−1 and Zn: 3.3±1.7 pg g−1. The Pb concentration agrees well with data from other workers for recent snow from East Antarctica, while the values for Cd, Cu and Zn are about ten times lower than have been reported previously, even for ancient Antarctic ice. Although these data refer to only one site and a short time period, it is believed that they are representative of modern Antarctic snow.
The true concentrations of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in ancient Antarctic ice are not yet established. However the following limits are suggested for increases over natural background levels due to anthropogenic emissions: Pb 1 to 40 times, Cd 1 to 180 times, Cu 1 to 4.5 times and Zn 1 to 6 times. These results indicate that contamination may have been responsible for reports of anomalous enrichment of several heavy metals in Antarctic snow.