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Science of The Total Environment
Volume 819, 2022, 152502

Crop selection reduces potential heavy metal(loid)s health risk in wastewater contaminated agricultural soils

Chun Caoa,b, Ying Yanga,b

College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, Gansu, China.


Vegetable crops have varied heavy metal(loid)s accumulation rates from soils to their edible tissues. However, crop selection has been seldom evaluated as a strategy for reducing the health risks of ingesting vegetables grown in soils contaminated by treated wastewater (TWW) irrigation. We cultivated twenty commonly grown vegetables using soils with an approximately 50-year history of TWW irrigation, and their ingestion risks were evaluated by the health risk index (HRI). Results showed that twenty vegetable species had varied abilities in accumulating heavy metal(loid)s from soils to their edible parts (e.g., >100 times of difference for Cd). We found higher potential health risks (HRI > 1) due to As, Cd, and Pb for adults ingesting few vegetable species and all the studied vegetables had negligible health risks (HRI < 1) for Cr, Cu, and Zn. These results suggest that remediation strategies should be targeted towards As, Cd, and Pb removal in agricultural soils in this region. Total HRI > 5 was obtained for ingesting spinach, Chinese lettuce, and Chinese chives, suggesting a high potential of severe health risks. Negligible risks (total HRI < 1) were found for tomato, kidney bean, potato, and cabbage. Our study highlights crop selection as a feasible strategy for ensuring food safety in TWW contaminated farmlands.

Keywords: Phytoremediation, Sustainable agricultural production, Mining and smelting, Dissolved organic matter, 13C NMR.

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