Health Risk Assessment of Trace Metals in Various Environmental Media, Crops and Human Hair from a Mining Affected Area

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Dec 18;14(12):1595. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14121595.


Long term exposure to trace metals in various media is of great concern for people living in known pollution sources, such as mining and industrial activities. Health risk assessment and human hair analysis can provide important information for local environmental management. Information on distribution characteristics of trace metals in soil, water, sediment, air, local crops, and human hair from a typical mining area in southern China was collected. Results show there exists severely trace metal contamination in soil, sediment, and air. Arsenic and Pb contents in the local children's hair are higher than the upper reference values, and the accumulation of residents' hair trace metals shows great correlation with the ingestion and inhalation pathways. Arsenic contributes 52.27% and 58.51% to the total non-cancer risk of adults and children, respectively. The cancer risk of Cd in adults and children are 4.66 and 3.22 times higher than the safe level, respectively. Ingestion exposure pathway of trace metals largely contributes to the total non-cancer and cancer effect. The metals As, Cd, and Pb are major risk sources and pollutants that should be given priority for management, and ingestion pathway exposure to trace metals through soil and crops should be controlled.

Keywords: exposure assessment; hair; multi-media; risk assessment; trace metals.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • China
  • Crops, Agricultural / chemistry*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mining
  • Risk Assessment
  • Trace Elements / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Trace Elements