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Arsenic and heavy metal contamination of vegetables grown in Samta village, Bangladesh

journal contribution
posted on 2003-01-01, 00:00 authored by M Alam, E Snow, A Tanaka
Drinking of arsenic (As) contaminated well water has become a serious threat to the health of many millions in Bangladesh. However, the implications of contamination of agricultural soils from long-term irrigation with As-contaminated groundwater for phyto-accumulation in food crops, and thence dietary exposure to As, and other metals, has not been assessed previously in Bangladesh. Various vegetables were sampled in Samta village in the Jessore district of Bangladesh, and screened for As, Cd, Pb, Cu and Zn by inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometry (ICP-AES) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). These local food products are the basis of human nutrition in this region and of great relevance to human health. The results revealed that the individual vegetables containing the highest mean As concentrations (μg g−1) are snake gourd (0.489), ghotkol (0.446), taro (0.440), green papaya (0.389), elephant foot (0.338) and Bottle ground leaf (0.306), respectively. The As concentration in fleshy vegetable material is low. In general, the data show the potential for some vegetables to accumulate heavy metals with concentrations of Pb greater than Cd. Some vegetables such as bottle ground leaf, ghotkol, taro, eddoe and elephant foot had much higher concentrations of Pb. Other leafy and root vegetables, contained higher concentrations of Zn and Cu. Bioconcentration factors (BCF) values, based on dry weight, were below 1 for all metals. In most cases, BCF values decreased with increasing metal concentrations in the soil. From the heavily As-contaminated village in Samta, BCF values for As in ladies finger, potato, ash gourd, brinjal, green papaya, ghotkol and snake gourd were 0.001, 0.006, 0.006, 0.014, 0.030, 0.034 and 0.038, respectively. Considering the average daily intake of fresh vegetables per person per day is only 130 g, all the vegetables grown at Samta had Pb concentrations that would be a health hazard for human consumption. Although the total As in the vegetables was less than the recommended maximum intake of As, it still provides a significant additional source of As in the diet.



The science of the total environment






83 - 96


Elsevier BV


Amsterdam, Nethelands








School of Biological & Chemical Sciences

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2002, Elsevier Science B.V.