Copula-based exposure risk dynamic simulation of dual heavy metal mixed pollution accidents at the watershed scale

J Environ Manage. 2021 Jan 1;277:111481. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.111481. Epub 2020 Oct 8.


Most heavy metal exposure and pollution results from multiple industrial activities, including metal processing in refineries, and microelectronics. These issues pose a great threat to human health, ecological balance, and even societal stability. During 2012-2017, China, in particular, faced the challenge of 23 heavy metals accidents, six of which were extraordinarily serious accidents. Accidental environmental pollution is rarely caused by a single heavy metal, but rather by heavy metal mixtures. To address the need for a joint exposure risk assessment for heavy metal mixed pollution accidents at the watershed scale, a Copula-based exposure risk dynamic simulation model was proposed. A coupled hydrodynamic and accidental heavy metal exposure model is constructed for an hourly simulation of the exposure fate of heavy metals from each risk source once accidental leakage has occurred. The Copula analysis was introduced to calculate the dual heavy metal joint exposure probability in real time. This method was applied to an acute Cr6+-Hg2+ joint exposure risk assessment for 43 electroplating plants in nine sub-watersheds within the Dongjiang River downstream basin. The results indicated seven risk sources (i.e., S1, S4, H18, H23, H27-H28, and H34) that presented relatively high exposure risk to their surrounding sub-watersheds. Spatially, the acute exposure risk level was highest in the tributary basin (sub-watershed XW) than in the mainstream (sub-watershed DW2) and the river network (sub-watershed RW) of the lower reaches of the Dongjiang River. This research highlights an effective probabilistic approach for performing a joint exposure risk analysis of heavy metal mixed pollution accidents at the watershed scale.

Keywords: Acute Cr(6+)-Hg(2+) joint exposure; Copula analysis; Dual heavy metal mixed pollution accidents; Dynamic simulation; Exposure risk assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents
  • China
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollution / analysis
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy* / analysis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical