A new approach for the estimation of trace metal emissions in Vilnius city was implemented, using vertical concentration profiles in the urban boundary layer and road tunnel measurement data. Heavy metal concentrations were examined in fine and coarse particle fractions using a virtual impactor (cut-off size diameter 2.5 mum). Negative vertical concentration gradients were obtained for all metals (Ba, Pb, V, Sb, Zn) and both fractions. It was estimated that the vertical concentration gradient was formed due to emissions from an area of about 12 km(2). Road tunnel measurements indicated that trace metal concentrations on fine particles were lower than those on coarse particles, which suggested that re-emitted road dust was highly enriched in trace metal due to historic emissions within the tunnel. Emission rates of different pollutants in the road tunnel were calculated using pollutant concentration differences at the tunnel entrance and exit and traffic flow data. Heavy metal emission rates from the area of Vilnius city were estimated using the vertical gradient of heavy metal concentrations and the coefficient of turbulent mixing, as derived from meteorological measurement data. The emission values calculated by the two different methods coincided reasonably well, which indicated that the main source of airborne trace metals in Vilnius city is traffic. The potential of the vertical concentration gradient method for the direct estimation of urban heavy metal emissions was demonstrated. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.