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    Assessment of human exposure to food crops contaminated with lead and cadmium in Owerri, South-eastern Nigeria

    Nwachukwu, Joseph Ikechukwu, Clarke, Leon ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2278-4139, Symeonakis, Elias and Brearley, Francis Q (2022) Assessment of human exposure to food crops contaminated with lead and cadmium in Owerri, South-eastern Nigeria. Journal of Trace Elements and Minerals, 2. p. 100037. ISSN 2773-0506

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    Abstract

    Background: Food safety and security have remained an emerging global challenge amidst increasing human activities that potentially contaminate the food chain. With the rapid population growth, urbanisation and unrestrained emission of toxic substances, urban-dwelling Nigerians are particularly vulnerable to consuming contaminated food crops. Materials and method: This study presents a framework for critical analysis of human exposure patterns to potentially contaminated food crops using the city of Owerri (Nigeria) as case study. It systematically assessed the metal burden of soil and staple food crops and the potential health risk associated with dietary exposure of humans to contaminated food crops. Samples of soil, cassava (Manihot esculenta) tubers and fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis) leaves were collected from household gardens and analysed for concentration of selected metals (Al, As, Ca, Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Ni, Pb and Zn) using ICP-OES. A risk assessment of human exposure to Pb contamination using both the Target Hazard Quotient (THQ) and Hazard Index (HI) was estimated. Results: The majority of metals measured below the respective health-based maximum concentration limits of the Nigerian Department of Petroleum Resources target value, except for Pb in soil, which was above the limit of 85 µg g−1 in 0.9 % of sampled soils. However, Pb measured above the threshold of 0.3 µg g−1 stipulated by the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius in 46 % of sampled pumpkin leaves with no correlation established with soil Pb concentrations. This suggests possible Pb contamination via atmospheric deposition, and that human ingestion of pumpkin leaves presents the greatest health risks. Conclusion: The findings revealed that children and toddlers are more prone to Pb contamination via food crop ingestion than adults based on the THQ and HI evaluations; hence need for relevant policies to ensure food safety. This study provides background data for epidemiological investigation of relationships between contaminated food crop ingestion and blood Pb.

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