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Sci Total Environ. 2013 Oct 1;463-464:530-40. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.06.064. Epub 2013 Jul 5.

Human health risk assessment of heavy metals in soil-vegetable system: a multi-medium analysis.

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College of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences, Zhejiang Provincial Key Laboratory of Subtropical Soil and Plant Nutrition, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China.


Vegetable fields near villages in China are suffering increasing heavy metal damages from various pollution sources including agriculture, traffic, mining and Chinese typical local private family-sized industry. 268 vegetable samples which included rape, celery, cabbages, carrots, asparagus lettuces, cowpeas, tomatoes and cayenne pepper and their corresponding soils in three economically developed areas of Zhejiang Province, China were collected, and the concentrations of five heavy metals (Pb, Cd, Cr, Hg and As) in all the samples were determined. The health risk assessment methods developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) were employed to explore the potential health hazards of heavy metals in soils growing vegetables. Results showed that heavy metal contaminations in investigated vegetables and corresponding soils were significant. Pollution levels varied with metals and vegetable types. The highest mean soil concentrations of heavy metals were 70.36 mg kg(-1) Pb, 47.49 mg kg(-1) Cr, 13.51 mg kg(-1) As, 0.73 mg kg(-1) for Cd and 0.67 mg kg(-1) Hg, respectively, while the metal concentrations in vegetables and corresponding soils were poorly correlated. The health risk assessment results indicated that diet dominated the exposure pathways, so heavy metals in soil samples might cause potential harm through food-chain transfer. The total non-cancer and cancer risk results indicated that the investigated arable fields near industrial and waste mining sites were unsuitable for growing leaf and root vegetables in view of the risk of elevated intakes of heavy metals adversely affecting food safety for local residents. Chromium and Pb were the primary heavy metals posing non-cancer risks while Cd caused the greatest cancer risk. It was concluded that more effective controls should be focused on Cd and Cr to reduce pollution in this study area.


Cancer risk; Family-sized industry; Heavy metal pollution; Multi-medium exposure; Non-carcinogenic risk

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