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Identifying sources and assessing potential risk of heavy metals in soils from direct exposure to children in a mine-impacted city, Changsha, China.

Heavy metal pollutants in soils can usually enter the human body and pose heath risks through a soil-crop-human body pathway (indirect exposure) or soil-human body pathway (direct exposure). Previous studies often neglected the direct exposure in human health risk assessment, especially for children. We collected surface soil samples from urban and suburb areas in Changsha City, China, to analyze the content ofAs, Cd, Hg, Ni, Pb, and Zn. A combination of principal component analysis, geostatistics, and triangulated irregular network (TIN) model was successfully used to discriminate the sources of heavy metals. The direct exposure method, sequential indicator simulation, and geographical information system (GIS) technologies were used to perform a health risk assessment of heavy metal exposure to children living in the study area. Results show that heavy metal contamination in Changsha may originate from coal usage and industrial activities. One thousand equiprobable realizations suggest that not all sites within the study area may be suitable for housing or allotments without remediation. Most high hazard indexes are located in the suburb and mining areas. Moreover, arsenic presents a high health risk in comparison with other elements. Compared with inhalation and dermal contact in direct soil exposure, soil ingestion is the largest contribution to potential health risks for children. This study indicates that we should attach great importance to the direct soil exposure for children's health.

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