Impacts of lead/zinc mining and smelting on the environment and human health in China

Environ Monit Assess. 2012 Apr;184(4):2261-73. doi: 10.1007/s10661-011-2115-6. Epub 2011 May 14.


Mining and smelting are important economic activities. However, mining-related industries are also some of the largest sources of environmental pollution from heavy metals. China is one of the largest producers and consumers of lead and zinc in the world. A large amount of lead, zinc, and related elements, such as cadmium, have been released into the environment due to mineral processing activities and have impacted water resources, soils, vegetables, and crops. In some areas, this pollution is hazardous to human health. This article reviews studies published in the past 10 years (2000-2009), on the environmental and human health consequences of lead/zinc mineral exploitation in China. Polluted areas are concentrated in the following areas: the junction of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces, west-central Hunan province, central Guangxi province, northern Guangdong, northwestern Henan province, the border between Shanxi and Gansu provinces, and the region of Liaoning province near Bohai. Lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) are the main pollutants and are associated with human health effects such as high lead blood levels in children, arthralgia, osteomalacia, and excessive cadmium in urine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Humans
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Mining*
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Water / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Zinc / analysis*


  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water
  • Lead
  • Zinc