Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 2007–2020 | Cite as

Contamination levels and human health risk assessment of toxic heavy metals in street dust in an industrial city in Northwest China

  • Yufeng JiangEmail author
  • Leiping Shi
  • A-long Guang
  • Zhongfeng Mu
  • Huiying Zhan
  • Yingqin Wu
Original Paper


This study investigated the content, distribution, and contamination levels of toxic metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb, and Zn) in street dust in Lanzhou, an industrial city in Northwest China. Meanwhile, the risk these metals posed to the urban ecosystem and human health was also evaluated using the potential ecological risk index and human exposure model. Results showed that concentrations of these metals in the dust are higher than the background value of local soil, with Cu having the highest levels. The districts of Anning and Xigu had the most extreme levels of contamination, while Chengguan and Qilihe districts were lightly contaminated, which can be partly attributed to human activities and traffic densities. In comparison with the concentrations of selected metals in other cities, the concentrations of heavy metals in Lanzhou were generally at moderate or low levels. Heavy metal concentration increased with decreasing dust particle size. The pollution indices of Cr, Cd, Cu, Pb, and Zn were in the range of 0.289–2.09, 0.332–2.15, 1.38–6.21, 0.358–2.59, and 0.560–1.83 with a mean of 1.37, 1.49, 3.18, 1.48, and 0.897, respectively. The geo-accumulation index (I geo) suggested that Zn in street dust was of geologic origin, while Cd, Cr, Pb, and Cu were significantly impacted by anthropogenic sources. The comprehensive pollution index showed that urban dust poses a high potential ecological risk in Lanzhou. Non-carcinogenic and carcinogenic effects due to exposure to urban street dust were assessed for both children and adults. For non-carcinogenic effects, ingestion appeared to be the main route of exposure to dust particles and thus posed a higher health risk to both children and adults for all metals, followed by dermal contact. Hazard index values for all studied metals were lower than the safe level of 1, and Cr exhibited the highest risk value (0.249) for children, suggesting that the overall risk from exposure to multiple metals in dust is low. The carcinogenic risk for Cd and Cr was all below the acceptable level (< 10−6).


Street dust Heavy metal Pollution index Potential ecological risk Human exposure assessment 



This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41363008 and 41272147) and the Foundation of A Hundred Youth Talents Training Program of Lanzhou Jiaotong University.

Supplementary material

10653_2017_28_MOESM1_ESM.doc (216 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 216 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental and Municipal EngineeringLanzhou Jiaotong UniversityLanzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Chemical Engineering CollegeLanzhou University of Arts and ScienceLanzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Petroleum Resources ResearchInstitute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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