Pollution and probabilistic human health risk assessment of potentially toxic elements in the soil-water-plant system in the Bolkar mining district, Niğde, south-central Turkey

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2021 Jul 21. doi: 10.1007/s11356-021-15398-w. Online ahead of print.


Globally, potentially toxic elements (PTEs) are regarded as an important group of pollutants for the wider environment because of their intrinsic toxicity and probable accumulation in the soil-water-plant system. In this regard, this study assessed the pollution levels and probable human health risks of PTEs in the soil-water-plant system in the Bolkar mining district of the Niğde Province in south-central Turkey. Pollution assessment using contamination factor, enrichment factor, index of geoaccumulation, and soil pollution index reveals moderate to extremely high pollution of PTEs in the soil, exposing the soils to extreme toxicity levels. The areas that fall under the toxic to extremely toxic categories are in proximity to the ore slags and agricultural lands towards the central and southern domains of the study area. The water hazard index (WHI) values indicate that 100% of the samples collected in both winter and fall seasons are of extreme toxicity (WHI > 15). Arsenic is the dominant contaminant among the PTEs in the soil and water samples. The bioconcentration factor values of the PTEs in most of the fruit plants are > 1, indicating very high levels of element transfer from the soil and water to the plants. The probabilistic human health risk assessment involved exposure to arsenic in groundwater (a major pathway to humans) since it is the only carcinogenic element in this study. The estimated daily intake of arsenic-contaminated water exceeds the safe limit of 5 × 10-8 mg/kg/day. About 33.3% and 55.6% of the groundwater samples have higher hazard quotient and carcinogenic risk values of arsenic in the winter and fall seasons, respectively. This implies that the people are more exposed to the carcinogenic effects of drinking arsenic-contaminated water.

Keywords: Anthropogenic activities; Arsenic contamination; Human health risk assessment; Ore slags; Pollution assessment; Potentially toxic elements.