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Distribution and migration of heavy metals in soil and crops affected by acid mine drainage: Public health implications in Guangdong Province, China

Liao, Jianbo, Wen, Zewei, Ru, Xuan, Chen, Jundong, Wu, Haizhen, Wei, Chaohai
Ecotoxicology and environmental safety 2016 v.124 pp. 460-469
United States Environmental Protection Agency, acid mine drainage, arsenic, atmospheric deposition, cadmium, copper, food crops, green leafy vegetables, hazard characterization, heavy metals, human health, lead, mining, neoplasms, public health, rice, risk, rivers, roots, soil, soil pollution, soil sampling, streams, sugarcane, zinc, China
Acid mine drainages (AMD) contain high concentrations of heavy metals, and their discharges into streams and rivers constitute serious environmental problems. This article examines the effects of AMD on soil, plant and human health at Dabaoshan mine in Guangdong Province, China. Although the large scale mining was stopped in 2011, the heavy metal pollution in soil continues to endanger crops and human health in that region. The objectives of this study were to elucidate distribution and migration of Cd, Cu, Zn, As and Pb and associated health implications to local inhabitants. We collected and analyzed 74 crop samples including 28 sugarcane, 30 vegetables, 16 paddy rice and the corresponding soil samples, used correlation and linear relationship for transformation process analysis, and applied carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risk for hazard evaluation. Results showed that the local soils were heavily polluted with Cd, Cu and As (especially for Cd) and the mean Igeo value was as high as 3.77. Cadmium, Cu, and Zn in rice and vegetables were comparable with those found four years ago, while As and Pb in edible parts were 2 to 5 times lower than before. The root uptake of Cd and Zn contributed mainly to their high concentrations in crops due to high exchangeable fraction of soil, while leafy vegetables accumulated elevated As and Pb contents mainly due to the atmospheric deposition. Metal concentrations in sugarcane roots were higher than those in rice and vegetable roots. The risk assessment for crops consumption showed that the hazard quotients values were of 21 to 25 times higher than the threshold level for vegetables and rice, indicating a potential non-carcinogenic risk to the consumers. The estimated mean total cancer risk value of 0.0516 more than 100 times exceeded the USEPA accepted risk level of 1×10−4, indicating unsuitability of the soil for cultivating the food crops. Therefore, the local agricultural and the land-use policies need to be reevaluated.