Health risks of heavy metals in contaminated soils and food crops irrigated with wastewater in Beijing, China

Environ Pollut. 2008 Apr;152(3):686-92. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2007.06.056. Epub 2007 Aug 27.


Consumption of food crops contaminated with heavy metals is a major food chain route for human exposure. We studied the health risks of heavy metals in contaminated food crops irrigated with wastewater. Results indicate that there is a substantial buildup of heavy metals in wastewater-irrigated soils, collected from Beijing, China. Heavy metal concentrations in plants grown in wastewater-irrigated soils were significantly higher (P<or=0.001) than in plants grown in the reference soil, and exceeded the permissible limits set by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) in China and the World Health Organization (WHO). Furthermore, this study highlights that both adults and children consuming food crops grown in wastewater-irrigated soils ingest significant amount of the metals studied. However, health risk index values of less than 1 indicate a relative absence of health risks associated with the ingestion of contaminated vegetables.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Crops, Agricultural*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Environmental Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Food Contamination*
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Metals, Heavy / toxicity*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis
  • Soil Pollutants / toxicity
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity
  • Water Purification


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical