Health risks of metal(loid)s in maize (Zea mays L.) in an artisanal zinc smelting zone and source fingerprinting by lead isotope

Xudong Wei, Yuting Zhou, Yanjun Jiang, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Chaosheng Zhang, Juan Liu, Yuchen Zhou, Meiling Yin, Jin Wang, Nengping Shen, Tangfu Xiao, Yongheng Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Metal(loid) contamination caused by industrial activities in agricultural soils has become a universal environmental and food safety concern. This study revealed the contamination, pathway, and source contribution of metal(loid)s such as lead (Pb), zinc (Zn) and cadmium (Cd) in maize and soils in different residential areas impacted by long-term historical artisanal zinc smelting activities from Southwest China. Results revealed that the soils were contaminated heavily by metals like Pb, Zn and Cd, with contents of 40–14,280, 150–47,020 and 1.28–61.7 mg/kg, respectively. Hazard quotients of food uptake for Pb, Cd and Cr in maize grains were extremely high for residents, in particular for the children. To trace the sources of metal health risk, lead isotope fingerprinting and binary mixing modeling were applied. It indicated that the anthropogenic activities contributed over 80% to the Pb contamination in maize grains. The findings highlighted warning levels of health risks to the residents in consuming maize grains in the historical artisanal Pb–Zn smelting area. Therefore, an effective strategy including pollution source control and remediation measures must be taken to improve the soil quality and guarantee food safety around the historical smelting areas likewise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140321
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2020


  • Artisanal zinc smelting
  • Isotopic analysis
  • Maize
  • Potentially toxic elements
  • Source apportionment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Health risks of metal(loid)s in maize (Zea mays L.) in an artisanal zinc smelting zone and source fingerprinting by lead isotope'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this