Accumulation and potential health risks of cadmium, lead and arsenic in vegetables grown near mining sites in Northern Vietnam

  • Anh T. K. Bui
  • Ha T. H. Nguyen
  • Minh. N. Nguyen
  • Tuyet-Hanh T. Tran
  • Toan V. Vu
  • Chuyen H. Nguyen
  • Heather L. Reynolds


The effect of environmental pollution on the safety of vegetable crops is a serious global public health issue. This study was conducted to assess heavy metal concentrations in soil, irrigation water, and 21 local vegetable species collected from four sites near mining activities and one control site in Northern Vietnam. Soils from vegetable fields in the mining areas were contaminated with cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), and arsenic (As), while irrigation water was contaminated with Pb. Average concentrations of Pb and As in fresh vegetable samples collected at the four mining sites exceeded maximum levels (MLs) set by international food standards for Pb (70.6 % of vegetable samples) and As (44.1 % of vegetable samples), while average Cd concentrations in vegetables at all sites were below the MLs of 0.2. The average total target hazard quotient (TTHQ) across all vegetable species sampled was higher than the safety threshold of 1.0, indicating a health risk. Based on the weight of evidence, we find that cultivation of vegetables in the studied mining sites is an important risk contributor for local residents’ health.


Heavy metal Vegetable Mining site Health risk Northern Vietnam 



This research was funded by the Vietnam National Foundation for Science and Technology Development (NAFOSTED) under grant number 105.08-2014.12.


  1. Abdullahi, M. S., Uzairu, A., & Okunota, O. J. (2009). Quantitative determination of heavy metal concentrations in onion leaves. International Journal of Environmental Research, 3, 271–274.Google Scholar
  2. Álvarez-Ayuso, E., Otones, V., Murciego, A., García-Sánchez, A., & Regina, I. S. (2012). Antimony, arsenic and lead distribution in soils and plants of an agricultural area impacted by former mining activities. Science of the Total Environment, 439, 35–43. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.09.023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anjum, A. N., Ahmad, I., Peduarda, M. E., Duarte, C. A., & Umar, S. (2013). The plant family brassicaceae-contribution towards phytoremediation. Springer, 171 pages.Google Scholar
  4. Arora, M., Kiran, B., Rani, S., Rani, A., Kaur, B., & Mittal, N. (2008). Heavy metal accumulation in vegetables irrigated with water from different sources. Food Chemistry, 111(4), 811–815. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.04.049.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balkhair, K. S., & Ashraf, M. A. (2015). Field accumulation risks of heavy metals in soil and vegetable crop irrigated with sewage water in western region of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2015.09.023.Google Scholar
  6. Bui, T. K. A., Dang, D. K., Tran, V. T., Nguyen, T. K., & Do, T. A. (2011). Phytoremediation potential of indigenous plants from Thai Nguyen province, Vietnam. Journal of Environmental Biology, 32, 257–262.Google Scholar
  7. Chandorkar, S., & Deota, P. (2013). Heavy metal content of foods and health risk assessment in the study population of Vadodara. Current World Environment, 8(2), 291–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chang, C. Y., Yu, H. Y., Chen, J. J., Li, F. B., Zhang, H. H., & Liu, C. P. (2014). Accumulation of heavy metals in leaf vegetables from agricultural soils and associated potential health risks in the Pearl River Delta, South China. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 186(3), 1547–1560. doi: 10.1007/s10661-013-3472-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chien, L. C., Hung, T. C., Choang, K. Y., Yeh, C. Y., Meng, P. J., Shieh, M. J., & Han, B. C. (2002). Daily intake of TBT, Cu, Zn, Cd and as for fishermen in Taiwan. Science of the Total Environment, 285, 177–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chopra, A. K., & Pathak, C. (2015). Accumulation of heavy metals in the vegetables grown in wastewater irrigated areas of Dehradun, India with reference to human health risk. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 187, 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. CODEX (2014). Working document for information and use in discussions related to contaminants and toxins in the GSCTFF. Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme (CF/8 INF/1).Google Scholar
  12. DARD (2010). Synthesis report on the vegetable consumption of Cho Don district, Bac Kan province, department of agriculture and rural development of Bac Kan, Portal of Bac Kan Province. Retrieved May 20, 2010(in Vietnamese).Google Scholar
  13. Dijk, V. C., Wim, V. D., & Bert, V. A. (2015). Long term plant biomonitoring in the vicinity of waste incinerators in the Netherlands. Chemosphere, 122, 45–51. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.11.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. DREBK (2012). Department of Resources and Environment Bac Kan, Portal of Bac Kan Province. Retrieved November 15, 2012(in Vietnamese).Google Scholar
  15. Fraser, M., Surette, C., & Vaillancourt, C. (2013). Fish and seafood availability in markets in the Baie des Chaleurs region, New Brunswick, Canada: a heavy metal contamination baseline study. Environmental Science and Pollution Research International, 20, 761–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ha, N. T. H., Sakakibara, M., Sano, S., & Nhuan, M. T. (2011). Uptake of metals and metalloids by plants growing in a lead–zinc mine area, northern Vietnam. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 186(2–3), 1384–1391. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2010.12.020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hu, J., Wu, F., Wu, S., Cao, Z., Lin, X., & Wong, M. H. (2013). Bioaccessibility, dietary exposure and human risk assessment of heavy metals from market vegetables in Hong Kong revealed with an in vitro gastrointestinal model. Chemosphere, 91(4), 455–461. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2012.11.066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Järup, L., & Åkesson, A. (2009). Current status of cadmium as an environmental health problem. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 238(3), 201–208. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2009.04.020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jooste, A., Marr, S. M., Addo-Bediako, A., & Luus-Powell, W. J. (2015). Sharptooth catfish shows its metal: a case study of metal contamination at two impoundments in the Olifants River, Limpopo river system, South Africa. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 112, 96–104. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2014.10.033.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kachenko, A., & Singh, B. (2006). Heavy metals contamination in vegetables grown in urban and metal smelter contaminated sites in Australia. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 169(1–4), 101–123. doi: 10.1007/s11270-006-2027-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kananke, T., Wansapala, J., & Gunaratne, A. (2014). Heavy metal contamination in green leafy vegetables collected from selected market sites of Piliyandala area, Colombo District, SriLanka. American Journal of Food Science and Technology, 2, 139–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Khan, S., Cao, Q., Zheng, Y. M., Huang, Y. Z., & Zhu, Y. G. (2008). Health risks of heavy metals in contaminated soils and food crops irrigated with wastewater in Beijing, China. Environmental Pollution, 152(3), 686–692. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2007.06.056.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Krejpcio, Z., Sionkowski, S., & Bartela, J. (2005). Safety of fresh fruits and juices available on the polish market as determined by heavy metal residues. Polish Journal of Environmental Studies, 16(6), 877–881.Google Scholar
  24. Li, S., & Zhang, Q. (2010). Risk assessment and seasonal variations of dissolved trace elements and heavy metals in the upper Han River, China. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 181(1–3), 1051–1058. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2010.05.120.Google Scholar
  25. Li, N., Kang, Y., Pan, W., Zeng, L., Zhang, Q., & Luo, J. (2015). Concentration and transportation of heavy metals in vegetables and risk assessment of human exposure to bioaccessible heavy metals in soil near a waste-incinerator site, South China. Science of the Total Environment, 521–522, 144–151. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.03.081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Luo, C., Liu, C., Wang, Y., Liu, X., Li, F., Zhang, G., & Li, X. (2011). Heavy metal contamination in soils and vegetables near an e-waste processing site, South China. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 186(1), 481–490. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2010.11.024.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Maleki, A., & Zarasvand, M. A. (2008). Heavy metals in selected edible vegetables and estimation of their daily intake in Sanandaj, Iran. The Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 39, 335–340.Google Scholar
  28. McLaughlin, M. J., Smolders, E., Degryse, F., & Rietra, R. (2011). Uptake of metals from soil into vegetables. In F. A. Swartjes (Ed.), Dealing with contaminated sites: from theory towards practical application. Heidelberg: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-90-481-9757-6_8.Google Scholar
  29. Mohamed, A., Rashed, M., & Mofty, A. (2003). Assessment of essential and toxic elements in some kinds of vegetables. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 55, 251–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Navarro, M. C., Pérez-Sirvent, C., Martínez-Sánchez, M. J., Vidal, J., Tovar, P. J., & Bech, J. (2008). Abandoned mine sites as a source of contamination by heavy metals: a case study in a semi-arid zone. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 96(2–3), 183–193. doi: 10.1016/j.gexplo.2007.04.011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ngo, T. L. P. (2007). The affect of water and soil environment to vegetable quality. Vietnam Journal of Agriculture and Rural Development, 17, 15–20 in Vietnamese.Google Scholar
  32. Osma, E., Serin, M., Leblebici, Z., & Aksoy, A. (2012). Heavy metals accumulation in some vegetables and soils in Istanbul. Ekoloji, 21(82), 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Oteef, M. D., Fawy, K. F., Abd-Rabboh, H. S., & Idris, A. M. (2015). Levels of zinc, copper, cadmium, and lead in fruits and vegetables grown and consumed in Aseer region, Saudi Arabia. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 187(676).Google Scholar
  34. QCVN.01.132.BNNPTNT (2013). Vietnam national technical regulation on fresh vegetable, fruit and tea—conditions for ensuring food safety in production and packing. Retrieved 22 Jan 2013.
  35. QCVN8.2-BYT (2011). Vietnam national technical regulation on the limits of heavy metals contamination in food. Retrieved 13 Jan 2011.
  36. Song, B., Lei, M., Chen, T., Zheng, Y., Xie, Y., Li, X., & Gao, D. (2009). Assessing the health risk of heavy metals in vegetables to the general population in Beijing, China. Journal of Environmental Sciences, 21(12), 1702–1709. doi: 10.1016/S1001-0742(08)62476-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. U.S (2003). The booklet from Department of Health and Human Services, USA.NIH Publication No. 03–2039. from:
  38. USEPA (1989). Guidance manual for assessing human health risks from chemically contaminated, fish and shellfish EPA-503/8-89-002. US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), Washington DC.Google Scholar
  39. USEPA (2007). Microwave assisted acid digestion of sediments, sludges, soils and oils. Revision 1.Google Scholar
  40. USEPA (2014). EPA Region 3 Risk-based Concentration Table. September 12, 2014,
  41. VietGAP (2008). The Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.Retrieved October 15, 2008 from:
  42. VMH (2015). Vietnam ministry of health, the report of the census of nutrition 2009–2012 of households the Youth newspaper(in Vietnamese).Google Scholar
  43. Yang, Q. W., Xu, Y., Liu, S. J., He, J. F., & Long, F. Y. (2011). Concentration and potential health risk of heavy metals in market vegetables in Chongqing, China. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 74, 1664–1669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Zhuang, P., Zou, B., Li, N. Y., & Li, Z. A. (2009). Heavy metal contamination in soils and food crops around Dabaoshan mine in Guangdong, China: implication for human health. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 31, 707–715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anh T. K. Bui
    • 1
  • Ha T. H. Nguyen
    • 2
  • Minh. N. Nguyen
    • 2
  • Tuyet-Hanh T. Tran
    • 3
  • Toan V. Vu
    • 4
  • Chuyen H. Nguyen
    • 1
  • Heather L. Reynolds
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute of Environmental TechnologyVietnam Academy of Science and TechnologyHanoiVietnam
  2. 2.VNU University of Science, Vietnam National UniversityHanoiVietnam
  3. 3.Hanoi School of Public Health, Environmental HealthHanoi,Vietnam
  4. 4.Thuyloi UniversityHanoiVietnam
  5. 5.Department of BiologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations