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Identification of dissolved metal contamination of major rivers in the southeastern hilly area, China: distribution, source apportionment, and health risk assessment

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Metal pollution has been a serious problem facing river systems worldwide, which can adversely affect human health through food chain. The goal of this study was to determine the distribution, sources, and health risk of dissolved metals (Cr, Mn, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Cd, Pb, Al, Sb, V, Co, Mo) in major rivers located in the hilly area of southeastern China (namely, Jiulongjiang River (JL), Minjiang River (MJ), Oujiang River (OJ), Qiantangjiang River (QT), Raohe River (RR), Fuhe River (FR), Xinjiang River (XR), Ganjiang River (GR), Xiushui River (XS), Xiangjiang River (XJ), Zishui River (ZR), Yuanjiang River (YR), Lishui River (LR)) during dry and wet seasons. Results indicated that metal concentrations were spatially and temporally distinct. Metals of Mn, Ni, Cu, Cd, Sb were significantly higher in specific rivers than other metals. And metals of Cr, Ni, As, and Al concentrations were obviously higher in dry season than in wet season. The comparison with drinking water guidelines of China and other countries indicated that waterbodies were polluted higher by Al than other metals at most sites. Metals in JL and XJ may have health risk to local adults with hazard index (HI) > 1. While special attention should be paid to As, which had a potential carcinogenic risk to adults in study area with CR higher than the critical value. Source analysis with statistical method indicated that point and non-point pollutants from anthropogenic activities are the main sources of metals, with the exception of Al, Ni, V, Cr, and Mo that were mainly from natural processes. This study could be useful for the management and protection of the China’s Southern hilly area river systems.

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This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA23040203) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (31670466).

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Correspondence to Xiaolong Wang.

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Xu, J., Zheng, L., Xu, L. et al. Identification of dissolved metal contamination of major rivers in the southeastern hilly area, China: distribution, source apportionment, and health risk assessment. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27, 3908–3922 (2020).

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  • Spatial distribution
  • Temporal distribution
  • Source
  • Assessment
  • Metals