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Ambio. 2004 May;33(3):138-40.

Heavy-metal pollution and arseniasis in Hetao region, China.

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School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Shanghai Jiaotong University, PR China.


In the Hetao region in northern China drinking water has become toxic due to the presence of arsenic (As) and other heavy metals in soil and water. The 7 counties in this region cover approx. 6100 km2, and in all 180,000 people are suffering from the toxic effects of contaminated drinking water. However, very few studies have been carried out in the region on the possible source of this arsenic. This paper is based on studies of the distribution of heavy metals in soil and groundwater. Results show that the average content of As is 0.483 microg g(-1) in groundwater and 13.74 microg g(-1) in soil. These levels are higher than the drinking water standard of 0.05 microg g(-1) recommended by the World Health Organization in 1984, and for the local background level in soil (5.20 microg g(-1)). This heavy-metal content in water and soil decreases gradually with increasing distance from the contaminated area, which fronts the Yin Mountains. The ratios of the Pb and Sr isotope contents in water are closely related to the ratios found in the water of the regions' mining area, and the ratios in soil correspond to the content of As in groundwater and soil in the area where pathological changes have been detected. Results suggest that the contaminants originate in the ore deposit zone fronting Yin mountains in the upper reaches of the Hetao Region.

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