Characteristics of heavy metals in soils and grains of wheat and maize from farmland irrigated with sewage

  • Peiying Xue
  • Quanli Zhao
  • Hongxin Sun
  • Liping Geng
  • Zhengzheng Yang
  • Wenju LiuEmail author
Research Article


The farmland irrigation with the sewage is a common and better pathway to save the resource of groundwater in Northern China. The investigation was conducted in the farmland along the Fuhe River to explore characteristics of heavy metals in soils and grains of wheat and maize from a long-term sewage-irrigated area of Baoding region. The results showed that the topsoil with long-term sewage irrigation accumulated more Cd, Pb, and Hg compared with that of soil irrigated with groundwater and their corresponding natural background values. Cd concentrations in 48% of sewage-irrigated soil samples exceeded the Chinese safety limitation at 0.6 mg/kg, but less Cd accumulated in crop grains and did not pose the potential health risk. On the contrary, Pb levels in soils irrigated with sewage were lower than the safety limitation but Pb concentrations in 24% of wheat grain samples exceeded the Chinese national safety limit. Long-term sewage irrigation did not increase As, Cr, and Ni concentrations in soils or crop grains. The target hazard quotient (THQ) of heavy metals in edible grains of crops was selected to assess their risk to human health. Total THQ values were higher than 1.0 for the wheat samples from sewage-irrigated area and both sewage-irrigated and smelter-impacted areas, and As is the main contributor to the total THQ and posed the potential risk to human health. Therefore, the accumulation of Cd, Pb, Hg, and As in soils and crops in sewage-irrigated area should be monitored continuously to ensure food safety and security.


Wheat grain Maize grain Health risk Heavy metals Sewage irrigation 



This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number 41471398); the National Science Foundation for Young Scientists of Hebei Province, China (grant number D2015204109); the Foundation for Young Talents in Higher Education of Hebei Province, China (grant number BJ2014033); and the Global Research Project of International Environmental Research Institute (IERI).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peiying Xue
    • 1
  • Quanli Zhao
    • 2
  • Hongxin Sun
    • 1
  • Liping Geng
    • 1
  • Zhengzheng Yang
    • 1
  • Wenju Liu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Key Laboratory of Ecological Environment of Farmland in Hebei ProvinceHebei Agricultural UniversityBaodingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Farm of Teaching and ExperimentationHebei Agricultural UniversityBaodingChina

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