Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 26, Issue 3–4, pp 343–357 | Cite as

Heavy metals in soils and crops in Southeast Asia

1. Peninsular Malaysia
  • Bernhard A. Zarcinas
  • Che Fauziah Ishak
  • Mike J. McLaughlin
  • Gill Cozens


In a reconnaissance soil geochemical and plant survey undertaken to study the heavy metal uptake by major food crops in Malaysia, 241 soils were analysed for cation exchange capacity (CEC), organic carbon (C), pH, electrical conductivity (EC) and available phosphorus (P) using appropriate procedures. These soils were also analysed for arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) using aqua regia digestion, together with 180 plant samples using nitric acid digestion. Regression analysis between the edible plant part and aqua regia soluble soil As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb and Zn concentrations sampled throughout Peninsular Malaysia, indicated a positive relationship for Pb in all the plants sampled in the survey (R 2 = 0.195, p < 0.001), for Ni in corn (R 2 = 0.649, p < 0.005), for Cu in chilli (R 2 = 0.344, p < 0.010) and for Zn in chilli (R 2 = 0.501, p < 0.001). Principal component analysis of the soil data suggested that concentrations of Co, Ni, Pb and Zn were strongly correlated with concentrations of Al and Fe, which is suggestive of evidence of background variations due to changes in soil mineralogy. Thus the evidence for widespread contamination of soils by these elements through agricultural activities is not strong. Chromium was correlated with soil pH and EC, Na, S, and Ca while Hg was not correlated with any of these components, suggesting diffuse pollution by aerial deposition. However As, Cd, Cu were strongly associated with organic matter and available and aqua regia soluble soil P, which we attribute to inputs in agricultural fertilisers and soil organic amendments (e.g. manures, composts).

Key words

background levels heavy metals Peninsular Malaysia plants pollution soils 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernhard A. Zarcinas
    • 1
  • Che Fauziah Ishak
    • 2
  • Mike J. McLaughlin
    • 1
  • Gill Cozens
    • 1
  1. 1.Adelaide LaboratoryCSIRO Land and WaterGlen OsmondAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Soil Science, Faculty of AgricultureUniversiti Putra MalaysiaMalaysia

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