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Metal uptake by homegrown vegetables - The relative importance in human health risk assessments at contaminated sites

Journal article
Authors A. L. M. Augustsson
T. E. Uddh-Söderberg
Johan Hogmalm
M. E. M. Filipsson
Published in Environmental Research
Volume 138
Pages 181-190
ISSN 0013-9351
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 181-190
Language en
Keywords Contaminated land; Exposure assessment; Metal uptake by homegrown vegetables; Risk assessment
Subject categories Heavy metals and other metals


Risk assessments of contaminated land often involve the use of generic bioconcentration factors (BCFs), which express contaminant concentrations in edible plant parts as a function of the concentration in soil, in order to assess the risks associated with consumption of homegrown vegetables. This study aimed to quantify variability in BCFs and evaluate the implications of this variability for human exposure assessments, focusing on cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) in lettuce and potatoes sampled around 22 contaminated glassworks sites. In addition, risks associated with measured Cd and Pb concentrations in soil and vegetable samples were characterized and a probabilistic exposure assessment was conducted to estimate the likelihood of local residents exceeding tolerable daily intakes. The results show that concentrations in vegetables were only moderately elevated despite high concentrations in soil, and most samples complied with applicable foodstuff legislation. Still, the daily intake of Cd (but not Pb) was assessed to exceed toxicological thresholds for about a fifth of the study population. Bioconcentration factors were found to vary more than indicated by previous studies, but decreasing BCFs with increasing metal concentrations in the soil can explain why the calculated exposure is only moderately affected by the choice of BCF value when generic soil guideline values are exceeded and the risk may be unacceptable.

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