Investigation of the factors that influence lead accumulation onto polyethylene: Implication for potable water plumbing pipes


The influence of polymer aging, water pH, and aqueous Pb concentration on Pb deposition onto low density polyethylene (LDPE) was investigated. LDPE pellets were aged by ozonation at 85 °C. ATR-FTIR and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) analysis of aged LDPE surfaces showed that a variety of polar functional groups (>C–O<, >C[dbnd]O, >COO) were formed during aging. These functional groups likely provided better nucleation sites for Pb(OH)2 deposition compared to new LDPE, which did not have these oxygen-containing functional groups. The type and amount of Pb species present on these surfaces were evaluated through XPS. The influence of exposure duration on Pb deposition onto LDPE was modeled using the pseudo-first-order equation. Distribution ratios of 251.5 for aged LDPE and 69.3 for new LDPE showed that Pb precipitates had greater affinity for the surface of aged LDPE compared to new LDPE. Aged LDPE had less Pb surface loading at pH 11 compared to loading at pH 7.8. Pb surface loading for aged LDPE changed linearly with aging duration (from 0.5–7.5 h). Pb surface loading on both new and aged LDPE increased linearly with increasing Pb initial concentration. Greater Pb precipitation rates were found for aged LDPE compared to new LDPE at both tested pH values.

Publication Title

Journal of Hazardous Materials