Lead contamination in tea leaves and non-edaphic factors affecting it

Chemosphere. 2005 Nov;61(5):726-32. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2005.03.053. Epub 2005 Apr 25.


Recent tests have detected high lead (Pb) concentrations in some commercial brands of tea leaves and this finding has raised concerns due to the possible health-related problems associated with Pb poisoning. In present research, we investigated the Pb contamination in tea leaves produced in Zhejiang province in China. Pb concentrations in all tea leaves sampled were below 5 mg/kg, the permissible levels given by Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, indicating that Pb contamination in this province is not excessive. We then investigated the non-edaphic factors that may potentially contribute to Pb accumulation in tea leaves. Pb concentration in tea leaves was found to be positively correlated with the industrialization level of a district (R = 0.83, the significant level at P < 0.05), and greater amounts of Pb were washed from the leaves of plants in districts with more industrial activity. This suggests that Pb accumulation in tea leaves could, in part, be attributed to industrial activity through the precipitation of atmospheric Pb. Furthermore greater amounts of Pb were washed from the leaves of plants growing near road than those growing farther away from road. This trend indicates that automobile activity was another likely contributor to Pb accumulation in tea. Pb content of green tea was also affected by the processing of the leaves in the factory. In particular the twisting and water-removal stages caused increases in Pb content in the tea product. This study suggests that non-edaphic factors also contribute to the Pb accumulation in tea.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Camellia sinensis / chemistry*
  • China
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Food Contamination
  • Food Handling
  • Industry
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Vehicle Emissions


  • Air Pollutants
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Lead