Uptake of heavy metals by vegetable plants grown on contaminated soil and their bioavailability in the human gastrointestinal tract

Marisa Intawongse, John Dean

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215 Citations (Scopus)


Lettuce, spinach, radish and carrot were grown on compost that had previously been contaminated at different concentrations of Cd, Cu, Mn, Pb and Zn. Control plants of each vegetable were also grown on unadulterated compost. The experiment was carried out under greenhouse conditions. Mature plants were harvested and their roots and leaves collected. Soil samples from each growing pot and plant materials were acid digested and analysed to determine total metal concentration. Flame-Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (FAAS) was employed to determine metal concentrations in soil and plant samples (Mn and Zn), while Cd, Cu and Pb in plant materials were analysed by Differential Pulse Anodic Stripping Voltammetry (DP-ASV). Soil (BCR 146R and GBW 07310) and plant (tea leaves, INCT-TL-1) certified reference materials were used to assess accuracy and precision. The edible part of plants, i.e. the leaves of lettuce and spinach and the roots of radish and carrot, were also extracted using an in vitro gastrointestinal (GI) extraction to assess metal bioavailability. The results showed that the uptake of Cd, Cu, Mn and Zn by plants corresponded to the increasing level of soil contamination, while the uptake of Pb was low. Soil-to-plant transfer factor (TF) values decreased from Mn≫Zn>Cd>Cu>Pb. Moreover, it was observed from this investigation that individual plant types greatly differ in their metal uptake, e.g. spinach accumulated a high content of Mn and Zn, while relatively lower concentrations were found for Cu and Pb in their tissues. From the in vitro gastrointestinal (GI) study, results indicate that metal bioavailability varied widely from element to element and according to different plant types. The greatest extent of metal releasing was found in lettuce (Mn, 63.7%), radish (Cu, 62.5%), radish (Cd, 54.9%), radish (Mn, 45.8%) and in lettuce (Zn, 45.2%).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-48
JournalFood Additives and Contaminants
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006


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