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J Environ Sci Health B. 2004 May;39(3):461-71.

Environmental and potential health effects of growing leafy vegetables on soil irrigated using sewage sludge and effluent: a case of Zn and Cu.

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Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, University of Zimbabwe, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.


The use of sewage sludge and effluent as a source of nutrients and water for crop production is increasing worldwide. A study was conducted in 2001 at Pension farm (near Harare) to determine the effect of long term (>30 yrs) application of sewage sludge and effluent on Zn and Cu accumulation in top soil, uptake of these metals by lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) and mustard rape (Brassica juncea L.), and dry matter yield. Application of sewage sludge/effluent significantly (p<0.001) increased total Zn (13.7-1563.9 mg kg(-1)) and Cu (2.5-133.3 mg kg(-1)) in the top soil (0-20 cm depth) compared to the control. Sewage sludge/effluent addition significantly (p<0.001) increased Zn uptake by both test crops, while Cu uptake was significant in the first crop of lettuce and the second crop of mustard rape. Based on the dietary patterns of poor urban households in Zimbabwe, the maximum possible intake of Cu will only constitute 40% the Maximum Daily Intake (MDI). The toxicological implications for Zn will however be more severe, exceeding the MDI by 77% through exposure by lettuce consumption and by 251% consumption of mustard rape. It was concluded that long-term addition of sewage sludge/effluent to soil at Pension farm had increased the concentration of Zn and Cu in top soil to levels that pose environmental concern. The consumption of leafy vegetables produced on these soils pose a health risk to poor communities that reside around the study site, especially children, through possible Zn toxicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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