The Extent of Heavy Metal Pollution and Their Potential Health Risk in Topsoils of the Massively Urbanized District of Shanghai

Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2017 Oct;73(3):362-376. doi: 10.1007/s00244-017-0433-6. Epub 2017 Jul 17.


Urbanization and industrialization increase the concentrations of heavy metals in soils, which affect human health. A total of 127 topsoil samples were collected from the massively urbanized and industrialized district of Shanghai: Baoshan District. The sampling sites were isolated based on the land-use practice: industrial area, roadside area, residential area, and agricultural area. The absolute concentrations of heavy metals (Zn, Cr, Ni, Mn, Cu, Pb, and Cd) were determined using atomic absorption spectrometry and compared with Shanghai and the National soil background values. The geoaccumulation index (Igeo) and Nemerow pollution index were used to determine the existence and severity of the pollution of heavy metals. Enrichment factor (EF) analysis, spatial variability of pollution, and multivariate statistical analyses also were employed to determine the anthropogenic loading of heavy metals, their spatial dependency, and correlation among their sources, respectively. Moreover, potential ecological risk and human health risk [carcinogenic risk (RI) and noncarcinogenic hazard (HI)] were evaluated. The average concentration of all the metals (accounted as 229, 128, 56, 719, 55, 119, and 0.3 mg kg-1 for Zn, Cr, Ni, Mn, Cu, Pb, and Cd, respectively) was many folds higher than the background values. The indices depicted that the pollution exists in all the sites and severity decreases in the following order: industrial soils > roadside soil > residential soils > agricultural soils. However, Zn, Pb, and Cd showed high levels of pollution in all the soils. The EF values suggested that the majority of heavy metals are anthropogenically loaded; spatial variability showed that the pollution is more concentrated in Songnan town; Pearson's correlation, principal component analysis (PCA), and cluster analysis suggested different sources of origin for the majority of the heavy metals. RI of Cr and Pb ranged between 2.8E-04 and 2.7E-07. However, HI was site-specific (only for Cr, Pb, Mn), and most of the sites were in Songnan town. This study could be used as a significant piece of information for management purposes to prevent heavy metal pollution and to protect human health.

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Environmental Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Urbanization


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants