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Chemosphere. 2005 May;59(8):1151-9. Epub 2005 Jan 1.

Lead contamination in tea garden soils and factors affecting its bioavailability.

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MOE Key Lab of Environment Remediation and Ecosystem Health, College of Environmental and Resources Science, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310029, People's Republic of China.


The consumption of heavy metals is detrimental to human health and most countries restrict the concentration of metals such as lead (Pb) in food and beverages. Recent tests have detected high Pb concentrations in certain commercial brands of tea leaves and this finding has raised concerns for both producers and consumers. To investigate what factors may be contributing to the increase in Pb accumulation in the tea leaves we collected tea leaves and soils from tea producing areas and analyzed them for Pb concentration, pH and organic matter content. The result showed the Pb concentration of 47% investigated tea leaves samples was beyond 2 mg kg(-1), the permissible levels given by China. The total Pb concentration in the surface and subsurface soil layers averaged 36.4 and 32.2 mg kg(-1), respectively which fall below of the 60 mg kg(-1) limit provided for organic tea gardens in China. The pH of the tea garden soils was severely acidic with the lowest pH of 3.37. Soils under older tea gardens tended to have a lower pH and a higher Pb bioavailability which was defined as the amount of lead extracted by CaCl2 solution than those under younger tea gardens. We found that the concentration of bioavailable Pb and the percentage of bioavailable Pb (bioavailable Pb relative to total Pb concentration) were positively correlated with soil H+ activity and soil organic matter content, and the organic matter accumulation contribute more effects on Pb bioavailability in these two factors. We conclude that soil acidification and organic matter accumulation could contribute to increasing Pb bioavailability in soil and that these could increase Pb uptake and accumulation in the tea leaves.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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