Assessment of lead, cadmium, and zinc contamination of roadside soils, surface films, and vegetables in Kampala City, Uganda

Grace Nabulo, Hannington Oryem-Origa, Miriam Diamond
Environmental Research 2006, 101 (1): 42-52
The relationship between traffic density and trace metal concentrations in roadside soils, surface films, and a selected vegetable weed, Amaranthus dubius Mart. Ex Thell., was determined in 11 farming sites along major highways around Kampala City in Uganda. Surface soil, atmospherically deposited surface films on windows, and leaves of Amaranthus dubius were sampled at known distances from the roads and analyzed for lead (Pb), zinc (Zn), and cadmium (Cd) using flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Atmospherically deposited trace metal particulates were sampled using window glass as an inert, passive collector. Total trace metal concentrations in soils ranged from 30.0+/-2.3 to 64.6+/-11.7 mg/kg Pb, 78.4+/-18.4 to 265.6+/-63.2 mg/kg Zn, and 0.8+/-0.13 to 1.40+/-0.16 mg/kg Cd. Total trace metal levels in soil decreased rapidly with distance from the road. Total Pb decreased with distance up to 30 m from the road, where it reached a background soil concentration of 28 mg/kg dry weight. The study found background values of 50 and 1.4 mg/kg for Zn and Cd in roadside soils, respectively. Similarly, Pb concentration in Amaranthus dubius leaves decreased with increasing distance from the road edge. The dominant pathway for Pb contamination was from atmospheric deposition, which was consistent with Pb concentrations in surface films. The mean Pb concentrations in leaves of roadside crops were higher than those in their respective roots, with the highest leaf-to-root ratio observed in the Brassica oleraceae acephala group. The lowest Pb and Zn concentrations were found in the fruit compared to the leaves of the same crops. Leaves of roadside vegetables were therefore considered a potential source of heavy metal contamination to farmers and consumers in urban areas. It is recommended that leafy vegetables should be grown 30 m from roads in high-traffic, urban areas.

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