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Environ Int. 2013 Feb;52:66-74. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2012.12.003. Epub 2013 Jan 3.

The bioavailability of selenium and risk assessment for human selenium poisoning in high-Se areas, China.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guiyang, China.


Enshi prefecture of Hubei Province is well known for human selenium (Se) poisoning in the early 1960s in China. Sporadic cases of Se poisoning in livestocks are still being found. In this study, Se levels in water, cropland soils and various crops from high-Se areas of Enshi were measured to investigate the distribution and bioavailability of Se in the environments, as well as probable daily intake (PDI) of Se for local residents. The total Se in surface water ranged from 2.0 to 519.3μg/L with a geometric mean of 46.0±127.8 μg/L (n=48), 70.5-99.5% of which was present in the form of Se(VI). The soil Se concentration varied from 2.89 to 87.3 μg/g with a geometric mean of 9.36±18.6 μg/g (n=45), and most of Se was associated with organic matter (OM-Se). The total Se in rice, corn, and vegetable samples were 2.11±2.87 μg/g (n=21), 3.76±11.6 μg/g (n=16), and 2.09±3.38 μg/g (n=25), respectively. Stream water Se is likely leached from carbonaceous shale and mine wastes, leading to Se accumulation in paddy soils. OM-Se may play an important role in Se uptake by rice plant in high-Se area of Enshi. The PDI of Se is approximately 2144 μg/day, and Se concentration in blood is estimated at about 3248 μg/L, posing a potential chronic Se poisoning risk to local residents. Cereal consumption (48.5%) makes a great contribution to human daily Se intake, followed by vegetables (36.6%), meats (8.5%), and drinking water (6.4%). However, when assessing health risk on human in high-Se areas, the contribution of drinking water to daily Se intake cannot be ignored due to high Se content and dominant Se(VI) species. Local inhabitants should be advised not to grow crops in high-Se lands or irrigate using high-Se water. If possible, they should drink pipe water and consume foods mixed with those from outside the high-Se areas.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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