Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 2177–2190 | Cite as

Potentially toxic elements in soil of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Tribal areas, Pakistan: evaluation for human and ecological risk assessment

  • Umar Saddique
  • Said MuhammadEmail author
  • Mohsin Tariq
  • Hua Zhang
  • Mohammad Arif
  • Ishtiaq A. K. Jadoon
  • Nimat Ullah Khattak
Original Paper


Potentially toxic elements (PTEs) contaminations in the soil ecosystem are considered as extremely hazardous due to toxicity, persistence and bioaccumulative nature. Therefore, this study was aimed to summarize the results of published PTEs in soil of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Tribal areas, Pakistan. Results were evaluated for the pollution quantification factors, including contamination factor (CF), pollution load index (PLI), ecological risk index (ERI) and human health risk assessment. The highest CF (797) and PLI (7.35) values were observed for Fe and ERI (857) values for Cd. Soil PTEs concentrations were used to calculate the human exposure for the risk assessment, including chronic or non-carcinogenic risks such as the hazard quotient (HQ) and carcinogenic or cancer risk (CR). The values of HQ were > 1 for the Cd, Co and Cr in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Tribal areas. Tribal areas showed higher values of ERI, HQ, and CR as compared to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that were attributed to the mining activities, weathering and erosion of mafic and ultramafic bedrocks hosting ophiolites. This study strongly recommends that best control measures need to be taken for soil PTEs with the intent to alleviate any continuing potential threat to the human health, property and environment, which otherwise could enter ecosystem and ultimately the living beings. Further studies are recommended to combat the soil PTEs concentrations and toxicity in the Tribal areas for a best picture of understanding the element effects on human, and environment can be achieved that will lead to a sustainable ecological harmony.


Human health risk assessment Ecological risk assessment Mining, mafic and ultramafic rocks Ophiolites 



We acknowledge the support of corresponding authors in published literature who provide us relevant data for this study. We are thankful to Mr. Muhammad Owais Zaib, Research Associate, CIIT for preparing the geological map of the study area.

Complinance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declared that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Umar Saddique
    • 1
  • Said Muhammad
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mohsin Tariq
    • 2
  • Hua Zhang
    • 3
  • Mohammad Arif
    • 2
  • Ishtiaq A. K. Jadoon
    • 2
  • Nimat Ullah Khattak
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryAbdul Wali Khan UniversityMardanPakistan
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesCOMSATS University AbbottabadAbbottabadPakistan
  3. 3.Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.National Centre of Excellence in GeologyUniversity of PeshawarPeshawarPakistan

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