Monitoring of heavy metal levels in the major rivers and in residents' blood in Zhenjiang City, China, and assessment of heavy metal elimination via urine and sweat in humans

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2016 Jun;23(11):11034-11045. doi: 10.1007/s11356-016-6287-z. Epub 2016 Feb 23.


The coastal areas of China face great challenges, owing to heavy metal contamination caused by rapid industrialization and urbanization. To our knowledge, this study is the first report of the levels of heavy metals in the major rivers of Zhenjiang, one of the most important cities of the Yangtze River Delta in China. In addition, we measured heavy metal levels in the blood of 76 residents of Zhenjiang. The results suggest that the presence of heavy metals in the blood may threaten human health and the distribution appeared to correspond to most highly populated areas and/or areas with high traffic. We also found that the concentration of heavy metals in human blood showed an accumulation effect with increase in age. Moreover, the levels of most heavy metals were lower in participants who regularly exercised than in those who did not. We studied heavy metal levels in the urine and sweat of another 17 volunteers to monitor the elimination of bioaccumulated heavy metal. Heavy metals were found in the urine and sweat of all the 17 participants and were more concentrated in sweat. Induced micturition and sweating appear to be potential methods for the elimination of heavy metals from the human body.

Keywords: Elimination; Heavy metal; Human blood; River; Urine and sweat.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • China
  • Cities
  • Environmental Monitoring* / methods
  • Geologic Sediments
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Metals, Heavy / blood
  • Metals, Heavy / urine
  • Middle Aged
  • Rivers*
  • Sweat / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Young Adult


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical