Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 1895–1907 | Cite as

Characteristics of metal contamination in paddy soils from three industrial cities in South Korea

  • In-Gyu Cho
  • Min-Kyu Park
  • Hye-Kyung Cho
  • Jin-Woo Jeon
  • Sung-Eun LeeEmail author
  • Sung-Deuk ChoiEmail author
Original Paper


Paddy soil contamination is directly linked to human dietary exposure to toxic chemicals via crop consumption. In Korea, rice paddy fields are often located around industrial complexes, a major anthropogenic source of metals. In this study, rice paddy soils were collected from 50 sites in three industrial cities to investigate the contamination characteristics and ecological risk of metals in the soils. The cities studied and their major industries are as follows: Ulsan (petrochemical, nonferrous, automobile, and shipbuilding), Pohang (iron and steel), and Gwangyang (iron and steel, nonmetallic, and petrochemical). Thirteen metals (Al, As, Ba, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, V, and Zn) were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma–optical emission spectrometry (ICP–OES). The mean concentration of Cd (1.98 mg/kg) exceeded the soil quality guideline of Canada (1.4 mg/kg), whereas concentrations of other metals were under the standards of both Korea and Canada. Generally, levels of metal concentrations decreased with increasing distance from industrial complexes. Among the three cities, Pohang showed high concentrations of Zn (142.2 mg/kg), and Ulsan and Gwangyang showed high concentrations of Cr (33.9 mg/kg) and Ba (126.4 mg/kg), respectively. These contamination patterns were influenced by the different major industries of each city, which was clearly demonstrated by the principal component analysis results. Pollution indices suggested that As, Cd, Pb, and Zn were enriched in the paddy soils via anthropogenic activities. Comprehensive potential ecological risk indices were at considerable levels for most sites, especially because of major contributions from As and Cd, which can pose potential ecological threats.


Soil pollution Agricultural soil Ulsan Pohang Gwangyang 



This work was supported by the 2018 Research Fund (1.180015.01) of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), Korea Ministry of Environment (KMOE) as “Chemical Accident Prevention Technology Development Project (2017001960001),” and Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP) through “Human Resources Program in Energy Technology” (No. 20164030201010) funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Supplementary material

10653_2019_246_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1097 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Urban and Environmental EngineeringUlsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST)UlsanRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.School of Applied BiosciencesKyungpook National UniversityDaeguRepublic of Korea

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