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: 2.08). 10/2007; 29(5):385-93. DOI: 10.1007/s10653-007-9083-3
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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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