Volcanic emissions represent one of the most relevant natural sources of trace elements to the troposphere. Due to their potential toxicity, they may have important environmental impacts from local to global scale. They can also severely affect the atmospheric and terrestrial environment at timescales ranging from a few to millions of years. Mt. Etna volcano is known as one of the largest global contributors of magmatic gases (CO2, SO2 and halogens) and particulate matter, including some toxic trace elements. The aim of this study
is to characterize the chemical composition and the mineralogical features of the volcanogenic aerosol passively emitted from Mt. Etna. Twenty-five samples were collected by filtration technique from different sites between 2008 and 2014. Chemical and mineralogical analyses allowed to discriminate two main constituents: the first is mainly referable to the silicate component in the volcanic plume, like lithic, juvenile fragments or glass shards and crystals (e.g. plagioclases, pyroxenes, oxides); the second constituent consists of soluble
compounds like sulphosalts or halide minerals (sulphates, chlorides and fluorides). Fluxes of major and trace metals emitted in the atmosphere have been estimated. By comparing the Etnean trace elements with those from European anthropic emissions, we conclude that Mt. Etna is the main persistent point source of major and trace metals in the Mediterranean region. Results gathered from this investigation is of fundamental
importance due to the exposure and potential impact of harmful chemical compounds for hundred thousand tourist visits each year to the summit of Mt. Etna.