Nitrogen pollution of groundwater is becoming more and more serious due to intense and extensive industrial and agricultural activities. This may exert great influence on human health. In this paper, human health risk due to groundwater nitrogen pollution in Jinghui canal irrigation area in Shaanxi Province of China where agricultural activities are intense was assessed. Forty-seven groundwater samples were collected from shallow wells and analyzed for physicochemical indices in the study area. Water samples were analyzed for pH, total dissolved solids (TDS), total hardness (TH), major ions (Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, HCO3−, CO32−, Cl− and SO42−), nitrate (NO3–N), nitrite (NO2–N) and ammonia nitrogen (NH4–N). General groundwater chemistry was described by statistical analysis and the Piper diagram. Water quality was quantified via comprehensive water quality index (CWQI), and human health risk was assessed considering the age and exposure pathways of the consumers. The results show that the shallow groundwater is slightly alkaline and groundwater types are HCO3·SO4·Cl–Mg and HCO3·SO4·Cl–Na. Rock weathering and evaporation are main natural processes regulating the groundwater chemistry. The CWQI indicates that groundwater in the study area is seriously polluted by TH, TDS, SO42−, Cl− and NO3−. Human health risk is high because of high concentrations of nitrate in drinking water. The results also show that children are at higher risk than adults. The health risk through dermal contact is much lower than that through drinking water intake and can be ignored.
Health risk assessment Nitrogen pollution Water quality Human activity Loess area
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We are grateful to the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41502234, 41761144059 and 41602238), the Research Funds for Young Stars in Science and Technology of Shaanxi Province (2016KJXX-29), the General Financial Grant from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2016M590911), the Fok Ying Tong Education Foundation (161098), the Special Financial Grant from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2017T100719), the Special Financial Grant from the Shaanxi Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2016BSHTDZZ03), and the Program of Introducing Talents of Discipline to Universities (B08039). Anonymous reviewers and the Editor are sincerely thanked for their constructive comments on the earlier versions of this article.
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