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Heavy metal accumulation in vegetable species and health risk assessment in Serbia

Pajević, Slobodanka, Arsenov, Danijela, Nikolić, Nataša, Borišev, Milan, Orčić, Dejan, Župunski, Milan, Mimica-Dukić, Neda
Environmental monitoring and assessment 2018 v.190 no.8 pp. 459
Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, beets, broccoli, cadmium, chemical constituents of plants, chromium, farms, health effects assessments, heavy metals, human health, human nutrition, lead, leaves, markets, monitoring, nickel, parsnips, risk assessment, spinach, surveys, tomatoes, toxic substances, Serbia
Continuous monitoring of heavy metal content in vegetables is of high priority for population nutrition control, as well as risk assessment for human health. The chemical composition of plants is a reliable indicator of their contamination by hazardous substances accumulated in the environment as a consequence of inadequately applied agro-technology. The main goal of this study was to examine the quality of vegetables that reach consumer markets as a function of growth location. Samples of 11 of the most common vegetable species used in the human diet were collected during a 4-year survey. Vegetables originated from local farm producers who cultivated them at different locations in Vojvodina Province, Serbia. Many vegetable samples contained disturbingly high levels of the investigated metals: cadmium, lead, nickel, and chromium. The plant species with the highest Cd accumulation was spinach, where Cd leaves exceeded the maximum permissible concentrations (MPCs) in more than half of the analyzed samples from different localities (54%). Pb concentrations in spinach were also higher than MPC values (according to Serbian law 3.0 μg/g) in 46% of all analyzed samples. Results showed that Cr levels in all tested vegetable species were below MPC values recommended by the FAO/WHO organization. The largest chromium accumulator was spinach, with average values of 2.3 μg/g, followed by beetroot and parsnips with an average concentration of 1.4 μg/g. The highest average content of Ni in all analyzed vegetable species was also recorded in spinach leaves, with an average value of 2.2 μg/g, followed by broccoli (1.7 μg/g) and tomatoes (1.5 μg/g).