Geogenic and anthropogenic sources identification and ecological risk assessment of heavy metals in the urban soil of Yazd, central Iran

PLoS One. 2021 Nov 29;16(11):e0260418. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0260418. eCollection 2021.


Urban soil pollution with heavy metals is one of the environmental problems in recent years, especially in industrial cities. The aim of this study is to evaluate the role of geogenic and anthropogenic sources in the urban soil pollution in Yazd, Iran. For this purpose, 30 top-soil (0-10 cm) samples from Yazd within an area of 136.37 Km2 and population of nearly 656 thousand are collected, and the concentration of heavy elements is measured. To evaluate factors affecting the concentration of heavy elements in urban soils and determine their possible sources, Multivariate statistical analysis, including correlation coefficient, principal components analysis (PCA) and cluster analysis (CA) are performed. Enrichment Factor (EF), Geo-accumulation index (Igeo), and Modified potential ecological Risk Index (MRI) are used to assess the level and extension of contamination. Results of this study suggest that As, Cd, Pb and Zn are affected by anthropogenic source, while the concentrations of Fe, Mn, Ni, Cr, Co, Cu and Cs have come from mostly natural geologic sources. As, Cd and Pb are considerably enriched in the area, provided moderately enriched for the elements Mn, Zn and Cu. However, the other heavy elements show minimal enrichment. Igeo reveal that Co, Cr, Cs, Cu, Fe, Mn, Zn and Ni with negative values are unpolluted, Pb posed unpolluted to moderately polluted, and As and Cd represent high polluted. Based on the results of the ecological risk factor, the heavy metals of Mn, Ni, Cr, Zn and Cu have a low ecological risk level. More specifically, we find that Pb shows a moderated ecological risk in 39% of the urban soil in the studied area. As and Cd with respectively 100 and 72% contribution have considerable and very high ecological risk. According to the results of MRI, the area is in a very high ecological risk level, and appropriate management practice is essential to reduce the pollution of heavy elements in this area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cities
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollution / analysis*
  • Iran
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants

Grants and funding

This work was supported by Iran National Science Foundation (INSF). Somayeh Soltani-Gerdefaramarzi and Mohsen Ghasemi greatly acknowledge the research productivity fellowship from INSF under contract. No. 96007731. Behzad Ghanbarian is grateful to Kansas State University for supports through faculty start-up funds.