Mercury contamination and health risk to crops around the zinc smelting plant in Huludao City, northeastern China

Northeast Institute of Geography and Agricultural Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Weishan Road 3195#, Changchun, 130012, PR China.
Environmental Geochemistry and Health (Impact Factor: 2.57). 10/2007; 29(5):385-93. DOI: 10.1007/s10653-007-9083-3
Source: PubMed


The Huludao zinc plant in Liaoning province, northeast China was the largest in Asia, and its smelting activities had seriously contaminated soil, water and atmosphere in the surrounding area. For the first time, we investigated the total mercury (THg) content in maize, soybean, broomcorn, 22 vegetables, and the soil around their roots from eight sampling plots near the Huludao zinc plant. THg contents of the seeds of maize, soybean, and broomcorn are 0.008, 0.006, and 0.057 mg kg(-1), respectively, with the broomcorn being the highest, exceeding the maximum level of contaminant in food (GB2762-2005) by 4.7 times. The edible parts of vegetables are also contaminated with a range of mercury contents of 0.001-0.147 mg kg(-1) (dry weight). THg contents in plant tissue decrease in the order of leaves > root > stalk > grain. Using correlation analysis, we show that mercury in the roots of these plants is mainly derived from soil, and the uptake of gaseous mercury is the predominant path by which the mercury accumulated in the foliage. The average and maximum mercury daily intake (DI) of adult around the Huludao zinc plant via consuming vegetables are 0.015 and 0.051 microg/kg/d, respectively, and those of children are 0.02 and 0.07 microg/kg/d, respectively. The average and maximum weekly intakes of total mercury for adult are 2.1 and 7.1%, respectively, of the provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI), and 2.8 and 9.7%, respectively, of the PTWI for children.

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    • "In addition, Hg stress is believed to trigger the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), causing oxidative stress and membrane lipid peroxidation in plants [14], [15]. Hg in soil can accumulate in the edible parts of vegetables and crops, and is then transferred to humans via the food chain [16]. Hg is also toxic to humans, causing impaired health in adults. "
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    • "Heavy metals in soil parent materials may become active and mobile during soil weathering and pedogenesis (Sterckeman et al. 2004; Ji et al. 2009). Some reports have shown that the vertical distribution of heavy metals in soil profiles in mining areas is related to mining history, including the transportation and disposal of slag (Chopin and Alloway 2007; Zheng N et al. 2007). Research on the vertical distribution of heavy metals in cultivated soil profiles has also focused on sludge application and wastewater irrigation (Dowdy et al. 1991; Richards et al. 1998; Chen and Ma 2011; Xu et al. 2012). "
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    • "A significant body of research on mercury (Hg) has been performed because of its adverse impacts on public health and environmental quality (Horvat et al. 2003; Taylor et al. 2005; Appleton et al. 2006; Feng et al. 2006; Qiu et al. 2006; Zheng et al. 2007; Kim and Jung 2012). Currently, the global input of anthropogenic mercury to the environment is estimated to be 2,000–2,200 ton yr -1 (Seigneur et al. 2004), 12 % of which is derived from the mining–refining industry (Han et al. 2006). "
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