Environmental contamination and seasonal variation of metals in soils, plants and waters in the paddy fields around a Pb-Zn mine in Korea

M C Jung, I Thornton
Science of the Total Environment 1997 May 30, 198 (2): 105-21
The objective of this study is to investigate the extent and degree of heavy metal contamination of paddy fields influenced by metalliferous mining activity. Paddy soils, rice plants and irrigation waters were sampled along six traverse lines in the vicinity of the mine and nearby control site. Soil samples were taken 30, 80 and 150 days after rice transplanting, to study seasonal variation of their chemical properties and heavy metal concentrations. Sampling of rice plants and irrigation waters was also undertaken with seasons. The analysis of the samples were carried out using ICP-AES for 25 elements including Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn. Physical and chemical properties of soils (pH, loss-on-ignition, cation exchange capacity and texture) and waters (pH, Eh and temperature) were also measured. The properties of soils were similar to the average Korean soils, with the exception of some samples taken in the vicinity of the mine. Concentrations of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in paddy soils, rice plants and irrigation waters sampled in the immediate vicinity of the mine were relatively high due to the seepage of metals from mining dump sites. Although there was variation between sampling sites, soil pH values under reducing conditions were on average higher than those under oxidising conditions. Relatively low content of organic matter and low cation exchange capacity of soils were found at 80 days after rice transplanting (P < 0.05). No seasonal variations in metal concentrations were found in paddy soils throughout the period of the rice growing, in which soils ranged from flooded reducing conditions through most of the growing season to drained oxidising conditions before and at harvest. Relatively high metal concentrations were found in the rice stalks and leaves under oxidising conditions. The sequential extraction analysis of selected soil samples confirmed that high proportions of exchangeable fractions of the metals were found under oxidising conditions. It was shown that Cd and Zn concentrations in rice leaves and stalks and rice grain increased with increasing metal concentrations in paddy soils to a greater extent than for Cu and Pb. This difference in uptake is in agreement with the greater proportions of Cd and Zn, compared with Cu and Pb, in the exchangeable soil fraction extracted with MgCl2. Average daily intake from locally grown rice by the residents was estimated to be 121 micrograms Cd and 126 micrograms Pb. Thus, long-term metal exposure by regular consumption of the rice poses potential health problems to residents in the vicinity of the mine, although no adverse health effects have as yet been observed.

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