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Chem Cent J. 2011 Oct 22;5:64. doi: 10.1186/1752-153X-5-64.

Heavy metals health risk assessment for population via consumption of vegetables grown in old mining area; a case study: Banat County, Romania.

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Banat's University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, Calea Aradului 119, RO 300645, Timisoara, Romania.



The aim of this study is to measure the levels of heavy metals (Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, Ni, Cd and Pb) found in common vegetables (parsley, carrot, onion, lettuce, cucumber and green beans) grown in contaminated mining areas compared with those grown in reference clear area and to determine their potential detrimental effects via calculation of the daily metal intake (DImetal) and Target Hazard Quotients (THQ) for normal daily consumption of these vegetables, for male and female gender.


Compared with the reference in contaminated areas, soil and plant contents of all analyzed metals are higher, usually over normally content for Mn, Zn, Cu, Cd and Pb. Particularly, in soil, higher values than intervention threshold values (ITV) were found for Cu and Pb and higher than maximum allowable limits (MAL) for Zn, Cu, Cd and Pb for parsley roots and leaves, carrot roots, cabbage, lettuce and cucumber. DImetal and THQ values for male and female were calculated for each vegetable and metal and for which oral reference doses exist. The combined THQ values calculated are concerning in that they are usually below the safe level of THQ<1 for all vegetables grown in reference area. In contaminated Moldova Noua (M) area the combined THQ exceeded the safe level only for parsley roots, while in more contaminated Ruschita (R) area combined THQ exceeded the safe level for parsley and carrot roots, lettuce and cabbage. Cd and Pb, most toxic metals to humans, have an increasing prevalence in the combined THQ for leafy (cabbage and lettuce) and fruit vegetables (cucumber). In the root vegetables only Pb has an increasing prevalence in combined THQ values. In all areas female THQ is higher than male THQ.


The results of this study regarding metal contents in soils, vegetables, DImetal and THQ suggest that the consumption of some vegetables (especially parsley, carrot and cabbage and less for lettuce, cucumber and green beans) is not free of risks in these areas. The complex THQ parameter use in health risk assessment of heavy metals provides a better image than using only a simple parameter (contents of metals in soils and vegetables).

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