Human exposure to trace elements has been a large concern due to the potential health issues. Accordingly, this study aimed to compare the concentrations of arsenic, copper, and zinc in the edible parts of vegetables grown in a mining-agricultural area and in an exclusively agricultural area and to compare the potential human health risks of consuming vegetables from both areas. The consumption habits of the studied population were extracted from the 2010 National Alimentary Survey of Chile. In most cases, the concentrations of trace elements in the edible tissues of vegetables (lettuce, spinach, garlic, onion, carrot, potato, sweet corn, and tomato) were higher in the mining-agricultural area than those in the control area. This difference was most pronounced for leafy vegetables, with arsenic being the trace element of concern. Specifically, the arsenic concentrations in the edible tissues of lettuce and spinach were 8.2- and 5.4-fold higher, respectively, in the mining-agricultural area than in the control area. Lettuce was the vegetable of concern due to its relatively high consumption and relatively high concentration of trace elements. Nevertheless, there was no health risk associated with vegetable consumption in either the mining area or the control area because none of the HQ values surpassed 1.0.
Keywords: Arsenic; Daily intake; Food safety; Hazard quotient; Health risk.