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Heavy Metals

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    Toxic trace metals are possible culprits for the ongoing deaths of large numbers of lesser flamingos at Lake Nakuru, Kenya. In this section we explore the possible role of heavy metals in these deaths and examine instrumental methods utilized to evaluate levels of copper, zinc, lead and chromium present in Lake Nakuru sediment and suspended solid samples. These methods include anodic stripping voltammetry (ASV), atomic spectroscopy, and x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF). Data sets are provided for each technique so that current levels can be calculated and compared to those contained in a report published in 1998.

    • Introduction – Heavy Metals in Lake Nakuru
      The purpose of this module is to explore the hypothesis that heavy metal contamination is responsible for the flamingo deaths at Lake Nakuru. Water chemistry of the lake will be considered as it pertains to the respective chemical state, concentration, sampling and sample preparation of toxic metals found there. In the next section, relevant methods of analysis for these metals will be investigated.
    • Metals Analysis by X-ray Fluorescence
      The purpose of this unit is to introduce the fundamental principles of x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), apply this method to the analysis of simulated data for heavy metals in suspended particulate and sediment samples from Lake Nakuru and critically contrast XRF with alternative methods for determination of heavy metal concentrations.
    • Metals Analysis by Anodic Stripping Voltammetry
      The purpose of this learning module is to introduce students to the electrochemical technique of anodic stripping voltammetry (ASV), which is particularly good at detecting metals at the ppb level.
    • Metals Analysis by Atomic Spectroscopy
      This section will provide an introduction to atomic spectroscopy.  The basic concepts of flame atomic absorption spectroscopy (FLAA), graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy (GFAA), and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) will be presented.

    • Instructor’s Guides: For instructor’s guide in a PDF or Word document, please contact Cindy Larive. (
      • Introduction
      • X-ray Fluorescence
      • Anodic Stripping Voltammetry
      • Key for Atomic Spectroscopy
    • Assessment Questions: For Assessment questions that accompany this module, please contact Cindy Larive (

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