Impact of Lead Contamination on Agroecosystem and Human Health

  • Vasudev Meena
  • Mohan Lal Dotaniya
  • Jayanta Kumar Saha
  • Hiranmoy Das
  • Ashok Kumar Patra
Part of the Radionuclides and Heavy Metals in the Environment book series (RHME)


Environmental threat due to toxic heavy metals is of prime concern worldwide. Rapid urbanization, industrialization and other developmental activities including anthropogenic activities (e.g. mining, fossil fuel burning) are the major contributors of heavy metals above the prescribed permissible limit. High concentration of heavy metals has detrimental impact on soil, water and air as well as human and animal health. Heavy metals exert toxic effects on soil microorganism hence results in the change of the diversity, population size and overall activity of the soil microbial communities. Heavy metal toxicity influences all soil microbial activity that involves change in the microbial population, diversity, their size and growth. Loss of soil fertility results in reduced crop yield and imbalance nutrition due to presence of excess amount of metals. Lead is non-biodegradable highly toxic heavy metal present in the environment. Elevated Pb in soil causes to decrease of soil productivity and impair with various soil enzymatic activities. Lead contaminated soil created several chronic health implications (carcinogenic) or even to death of the living organisms via food chain contamination. Lead is considered as one of the potential carcinogens which can damage cardiovascular, kidney, brain, gastrointestinal tracts, low IQ, loss of hearing or multi-organ failure in humans. Lead toxicity causes several health hazards like everlasting brain injury, hearing loss, learning disabilities, behavioural abnormalities in children while in adults it comes with hypertension, blood pressure, heart disease, and so on. Lead pollution also has severe threat to the aquatic living organisms. In this chapter, a brief overview about the lead with its various active form, source of contamination and impact on agroecosystem, human and animals has been described in details.


Lead Heavy metals Agroecosystem Contaminants Human health Toxicity 


  1. Abdullahi M (2013) Toxic effects of lead in humans: an overview. Glob Adv J Environ Sci Toxicol 2:157–162Google Scholar
  2. Adhikari S, Gupta SK, Banerjee SK (1993) Heavy metals content of city sewage and sludge. J Indian Soc Soil Sci 41:170–172Google Scholar
  3. Adhikari T, Wanjari RH, Biswas AK (2012) Final Report of the project entitled “Impact assessment of continuous fertilization on heavy metals and microbial diversity in soils under long-term fertilizer experiment”. Submitted to Ministry of Forest and Environment, New Delhi, India. p 175Google Scholar
  4. ATSDR (2005) Toxicological profile for nickel. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Division of Toxicology/Toxicology Information Branch, Atlanta, GeorgiaGoogle Scholar
  5. Bagumire A, Todd EC, Nasinyama GW, Muyanja C, Rumbeiha WK, Harris C, Bourquin LD (2009) Potential sources of food hazards in emerging commercial aquaculture industry in sub-Saharan Africa: a case study for Uganda. Int J Food Sci Tchnol 44:1677–1687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Balagangatharthilagar M, Swarup D, Patra RC, Diwedi SK (2006) Blood lead level in dogs from urban and rural areas of India and its relation to animal and environmental variables. Sci Total Environ 359:130–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baldwin DR, Marshall WJ (1999) Heavy metal poisoning and its laboratory investigation. Anna Clin Biochem 36:267–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bhupal Raj G, Singh MV, Patnaik MC, Khadke KM (2009) Four decades of research on micro and secondary-nutrients and pollutant elements in Andhra Pradesh. Research Bulletin, AICRP Micro- and Secondary-Nutrients and Pollutant Elements in Soils and Plants, IISS, Bhopal, India. p. 1–132Google Scholar
  9. Bolan NS, Adriano DC, Mani S, Khan AR (2003) Adsorption, complexation and phytoavailability of copper as influenced by organic manure. Environ Toxicol Chem 22:450–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bui ATK, Nguyen HTH, Nguyen MN, Tran TH, Vu TV, Nguyen CH, Reynolds HL (2016) Accumulation and potential health risks of cadmium, lead and arsenic in vegetables grown near mining sites in Northern Vietnam. Environ Monit Assess 188:525CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DFID (2003) Heavy metal contamination of vegetables in Delhi. Executive summary of technical report. Department for International Development, London, U.K.Google Scholar
  12. Dotaniya ML, Panwar NR, Meena VD, Dotaniya CK, Regar KL, Lata M, Saha JK (2018) Bioremediation of metal contaminated soil for sustainable crop production. In: Meena VS (ed) Role of rhizospheric microbes in soil. Springer, Singapore, p. 143–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Douay F, Pelfrene A, Planque J, Fourrier H, Richard A, Roussel H, Girondelot B (2013) Assessment of potential health risk for inhabitants living near a former lead smelter. Part 1: metal concentrations in soils, agricultural crops, and homegrown vegetables. Environ Monit Assess 185:3665–3680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Effron D, de la Horra AM, Defrieri RL, Fontanive V, Palma PM (2004) Effect of cadmium, copper, and lead on different enzyme activities in a native forest soil. Comm Soil Sci Plant Anal 35:1309–1321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Egyir I, Beinpuo E (2009) Strategic innovations in urban agriculture, food supply and livelihood support systems performance in Accea, Ghana. College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences. University of Ghana.Google Scholar
  16. FAO/WHO (2011) Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme Codex Committee On Contaminants In Foods. Available at:
  17. Fargasova A (1994) Effect of Pb, Cd, Hg, As, and Cr on germination and root growth of Sinapis alba seeds. Bull Environ Cont Toxicol 52:452–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Farzin L, Amiri M, Shams H, Faghih MAA, Moassesi ME (2008) Blood levels of lead, cadmium, and mercury in residents of Tehran. Biol Trace Elem Res 123:14–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Godin P, Feinberg M, Ducauze C (1985) Modelling of soil contamination by airborne lead and cadmium around several emission sources. Environ Pollut 10:97–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grandjean P, Landrigan PJ (2014) Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. Lancet Neurol 13:330–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gupta DK, Chatterjee S, Datta S, Veer V, Walther C (2014) Role of phosphate fertilizers in heavy metal uptake and detoxification of toxic metals. Chemosphere 108:134–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. GWRTAC (1997) Remediation of metals-contaminated soils and groundwater, Tech. Rep. TE-97-01, GWRTAC, Pittsburgh, Pa, USA, GWRTAC-E SeriesGoogle Scholar
  23. Hernandez L, Probst A, Probst JL, Ulrich E (2003) Heavy metal distribution in some French forest soils: evidence for atmospheric contamination. Sci Total Environ 312:195–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kabata-Pendias A, Pendias H (2001) Trace metals in soils and plants. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
  25. Kaul PP, Shyam S, Srivasatva R, Misra D, Salve PR, Srivastava SP (2003) Lead levels in ambient air and blood of pregnant mothers from the general population of Lucknow (UP), India. Bull Environ Cont Toxicol 71:1239–1243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kunito T, Saeki K, Nagaoka K, Oyaizu H, Matsumoto S (2001) Characterization of copper resistant bacterial community in rhizosphere of highly copper-contaminated soil. Eur J Soil Biol 37:95–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Leroyer A, Nisse C, Hemon D, Gruchociak A, Salomez JL, Haguenoer JM (2000) Environmental lead exposure in a population of children in northern France: factors affecting lead burden. Amer J Ind Med 38:281–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leroyer A, Hemon D, Nisse C, Auque G, Mazzuca M, Haguenoer JM (2001) Determinants of cadmium burden levels in a population of children living in the vicinity of non-ferrous smelters. Environ Res 87:147–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Manahan SE (2003) Toxicological chemistry and biochemistry. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
  30. Markowitz ME, Rosen JF (1981) Zinc and copper metabolism in CaNa2 EDTA-treated children with plumbism. Pediat Res 15:635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Marsh J, Bailey M (2013) A review of lung–to–blood absorption rates for radon progeny. Radiat Prot Dosimetry 157:499–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McBride MB (1994) Environmental chemistry of soils. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Meena VD, Dotaniya ML, Coumar V, Rajendiran S, Kundu S, Rao AS (2014) A case for silicon fertilization to improve crop yields in tropical soils. Proc Natl Acad Sci India, Sect B Biol Sci 84:505–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mishra AK, Maiti SK, Pal AK (2013) Status of PM10 in bound heavy metals in ambient air in certain parts of Jharia coal field, Jharkhand, India. Int J Environ Sci 4:141–150Google Scholar
  35. Nolan K (2003) Copper toxicity syndrome. J Orthomol Psych 12:270–282Google Scholar
  36. NSC (2009) Lead Poisoning, National Safety Council, 2009, Poisoning.pdf
  37. Oliveira A, Pampulha ME (2006) Effects of long-term heavy metal contamination on soil microbial characteristics. J Biosci Bioeng 102:157–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ozkul C (2016) Heavy metal contamination in soils around the Tunçbilek thermal power plant. Environ Monit Assess 188:284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pacyna JM, Pacyna EG (2001) An assessment of global and regional emissions of trace metals to the atmosphere from anthropogenic sources worldwide. Environ Rev 9:269–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pal R, Mahima A, Tripathi A (2014) Assessment of heavy metals in suspended particulate matter in Moradabad. India. J Environ Biol 35:357–361Google Scholar
  41. Panwar NR, Saha JK, Adhikari T (2010) Soil and water pollution in India: some case studies. IISS Technical Bulletin. Indian Institute of Soil Science, Bhopal, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  42. Patel KS, Ambade B, Sharma S, Sahu D, Jaiswal NK, Gupta S, Dewangan RK, Nava S, Lucarelli F, Blazhev B, Stefanova R, Hoinkis J (2010) Lead environmental pollution in Central India. In: Ramov B (ed) New trends in technologies. InTech. Available from:
  43. Patra R, Rautray AK, Swarup D (2011) Oxidative stress in lead and cadmium toxicity and its amelioration. Vet Med Int:457327Google Scholar
  44. Pelfrene A, Douay F, Richard A, Roussel H, Girondelot B (2013) Assessment of potential health risk for inhabitants living near a former lead smelter. Part 2: Site-specific human health risk assessment of Cd and Pb contamination in kitchen gardens. Environ Monit Assess 185:2999–3012CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pruvot C, Douay F, Herve F, Waterlot C (2006) Heavy metals in soil, crops and grass as a source of human exposure in the former mining areas. J Soils Sedim 6:215–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Raskin I, Ensley BD (2000) Phytoremediation of toxic metals: Using plants to clean up the environment. John Wiley & Sons, New York, U.S.A.Google Scholar
  47. Rosen CJ (2002) Lead in the home garden and urban soil environment, Communication and Educational Technology Services, University of Minnesota Extension.
  48. Sabath E, Robles-Osorio ML (2012) Renal health and the environment: heavy metal nephrotoxicity Medio ambiente y riñón: nefrotoxicidad por metales pesados. Nefrologia 32:279–286Google Scholar
  49. Saha JK (2013) Risk assessment of heavy metals in soil of a susceptible agroecological system amended with municipal solid waste compost. J Indian Soc Soil Sci 61:15–22Google Scholar
  50. Saha JK, Sharma AK (2006) Impact of the use of polluted irrigation water on soil quality and crop productivity near Ratlam and Nagda industrial area. IISS Bulletin, Indian Institute of Soil Science, Bhopal, India. p. 26Google Scholar
  51. Sauve S, McBride M, Hendershot W (1997) Speciation of lead in contaminated soils. Environ Pollut 98:149–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sethy SK, Ghosh S (2013) Effect of heavy metals on germination of seeds. J Nat Sci Biol Med 4:272–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sharma RK, Agrawal M, Marshall FM (2008) Atmospheric deposition of heavy metal (copper, zinc, cadmium and lead) in Varanasi city, India. Environ Monit Assess 142:269–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Singh SK, Ghosh AK (2011) Entry of arsenic into food material—a case study. World Appl Sci J 13:385–390Google Scholar
  55. Solenkova NV, Newman JD, Berger JS, Thurston G, Hochman JS, Lamas GA (2014) Metal pollutants and cardiovascular disease: mechanisms and consequences of exposure. Amer Heart J 168:812–822CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Stalin P, Singh MV, Muthumanickam D (2010) Four decades of research on micro and secondary nutrients and pollutant elements in crops and soils of Tamil Nadu. Research Publication No. 8. AICRP Micro- and Secondary-Nutrients and Pollutant Elements in Soils and Plants, IISS, Bhopal, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  57. Sterckeman T, Douay F, Proix N, Fourrier H (2000) Vertical distribution of Cd, Pb and Zn in soils near smelters in the north of France. Environ Pollut 107:377–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sterckeman T, Douay F, Proix N, Fourrier H, Perdrix E (2002) Assessment of the contamination of cultivated soils by eighteen trace elements around smelters in the north of France. Water Air Soil Pollut 135:173–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sun HJ, Rathinasabapathi B, Wu B, Luo J, Pu LP, Ma LQ (2014) Arsenic and selenium toxicity and their interactive effects in humans. Environ Int 69:148–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tabatabai MA (1982) Soil enzymes. In: Page AL, Miller RH, Keeney DR (eds) Methods of soil analysis, Part 2, Chemical and microbiological properties, Monograph no, vol 9. ASA-SSSA, Madison, pp 903–947Google Scholar
  61. Tangahu BV, Sheikh Abdullah SR, Basri H, Idris M, Anuar N, Mukhlisin M (2011) A review on heavy metals (As, Pb, and Hg) uptake by plants through phytoremediation. Int J Chem Eng 2011:1–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tellez-Plaza M, Navas-Acien A, Menke A, Crainiceanu CM, Pastor-Barriuso R, Guallar E (2012) Cadmium exposure and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the US general population. Environ Health Persp 120:1017–1022CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tiwari K, Pandey A, Pandey J (2008) Atmospheric deposition of heavy metals in a seasonally dry tropical urban environment (India). J Environ Res Develop 2:605–611Google Scholar
  64. Tripathi RM, Ashawa SC, Khandekar RN (1993) Atmospheric depositions of Cd, Pb, Cu and Zn in Bombay, India. Atmos Environ 27:269–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Türkdogan MK, Fevzi K, Kazim K, Ilyas T, Ismail U (2003) Heavy metals in soil, vegetables and fruits in the endemic upper gastrointestinal cancer region of Turkey. Environ Toxicol Pharm 13:175–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Twumasi P, Tandoh MA, Borbi MA, Ajoke AR, Tenkorang EO, Okoro R, Dumevi RM (2016) Assessment of the levels of cadmium and lead in soil and vegetable samples from selected dumpsites in the Kumasi Metropolis of Ghana. Afr J Agric Res 11:1608–1616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. USDHHS (1999) Toxicological profile for lead, United States Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, GA.Google Scholar
  68. Wang Y, Li Q, Shi J, Lin Q, Chen XC, Wu W, Chen YX (2008) Assessment of microbial activity and bacterial community composition in the rhizosphere of a copper accumulator and a non-accumulator. Soil Biol Biochem 40:1167–1177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. WHO (2013) Health topics. Available at
  70. Xie Y, Luo H, Du Z, Hu L, Fu J (2014) Identification of cadmium- resistant fungi related to Cd transportation in bermuda grass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.]. Chemosphere 117:786–792CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Yang Z, Liu S, Zheng D, Feng S (2006) Effects of cadmium, zinc, and lead on soil enzyme activities. J Environ Sci 18:1135–1141CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vasudev Meena
    • 1
  • Mohan Lal Dotaniya
    • 2
  • Jayanta Kumar Saha
    • 1
  • Hiranmoy Das
    • 1
  • Ashok Kumar Patra
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Environmental Soil ScienceICAR-Indian Institute of Soil ScienceBhopalIndia
  2. 2.ICAR-Directorate of Rapeseed-Mustard ResearchBharatpurIndia

Personalised recommendations