Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 1557–1572 | Cite as

Assessment of Pb, Cd and Hg soil contamination and its potential to cause cytotoxic and genotoxic effects in human cell lines (CaCo-2 and HaCaT)

  • Maida Sljivic HusejnovicEmail author
  • Martina Bergant
  • Sasa Jankovic
  • Suzana Zizek
  • Aida Smajlovic
  • Adaleta Softic
  • Omer Music
  • Biljana Antonijevic
Original Paper


Soil contamination by heavy metals is a serious global environmental problem, especially for developing countries. A large number of industrial plants, which continually pollute the environment, characterize Tuzla Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim of this study was to assess the level of soil pollution by heavy metals and to estimate cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of soil leachates from this area. Lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg) were analyzed by ICP-AES and AAS. Soil contamination was assessed using contamination factor, degree of contamination, geoaccumulation index and pollution load index. To determine the connection of variables and understanding their origin in soils, principal component analysis (PCA) and cluster analysis (CA) were used. The results indicate that Cd and Hg originated from natural and anthropogenic activities, while Pb is of anthropogenic origin. For toxicity evaluation, CaCo-2 and HaCaT cells were used. PrestoBlue assay was used for cytotoxicity testing, and γH2A.X for genotoxicity evaluation. Concerning cytotoxicity, Cd and Hg had a positive correlation with cytotoxicity in HaCaT cells, but only Hg induced cytotoxicity in CaCo-2 cells. We also demonstrate that soil leachates contaminated by heavy metals can induce genotoxicity in both used cell lines. According to these results, combining bioassays with standard physicochemical analysis can be useful for evaluating environmental and health risks more accurately. These results are important for developing proper management strategies to decrease pollution. This is one of the first studies from this area and an important indication of soil quality in Southeast Europe.

Graphical Abstract


Lead Cadmium and mercury Soil pollution Tuzla Canton Cytotoxicity Genotoxicity 



This research was partly supported by project of Federal Ministry of Education and Science in the framework of bilateral scientific and technological cooperation between the Republic Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina for 2016–2017 (BI-BA/16-17-036). Furthermore, the financial support of meat industry Natura from Teslic, Bosnia and Herzegovina is gratefully acknowledged.

Supplementary material

10653_2018_71_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 2060 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of TuzlaTuzlaBosnia and Herzegovina
  2. 2.Laboratory for Environmental and Life SciencesUniversity of Nova GoricaNova GoricaSlovenia
  3. 3.Institute for Hygiene and Technology of MeatInstitutions BelgradeBelgradeSerbia
  4. 4.Faculty of Mining, Geology and Civil EngineeringUniversity of TuzlaTuzlaBosnia and Herzegovina
  5. 5.Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia

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