Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 2049–2069 | Cite as

Selenium and hazardous elements distribution in plant–soil–water system and human health risk assessment of Lower Cambrian, Southern Shaanxi, China

  • Yajun Du
  • Kunli LuoEmail author
  • Runxiang Ni
  • Rahib Hussain
Original Paper


The natural selenium poisoning due to toxic Se levels in food chain had been observed in humans and animals in Lower Cambrian outcrop areas in Southern Shaanxi, China. To find out the distribution pattern of selenium and other hazardous elements in the plant, soil and water of Lower Cambrian in Southern Shaanxi, China, and their possible potential health risk, a total of 30 elements were analyzed and the health risk assessment of 18 elements was calculated. Results showed that the soil, plant and natural water of Lower Cambrian all had relatively high Se levels. In Lower Cambrian, the soil was enriched with Se, As, Ba, Cu, Mo, Ni, Zn, Ga, Cd and Cr (1.68 < Igeo < 4.48, Igeo; geo-accumulation index). In same plants, the contents of Se, Cd and Zn (except Cd in corn and rice, Zn in potato and corn) of Lower Cambrian were higher than that of the other strata. Ba and Ga in natural water were higher than that of the other strata, while K and Cs were opposite. The health risk assessment results showed that the people living in outcrop areas of Lower Cambrian had both high total non-carcinogenic risk of 18 elements (HI = 16.12, acceptable range: < 1) and carcinogenic risk of As (3.98E−04, acceptable range: 10−6–10−4). High contents of Se, As, Mo and Tl of Lower Cambrian may pose a health risk to local people, and food intake was the major pathway. For minimizing potential health risk, the local inhabitants should use the mix-imported food with local growing foods.


Selenium Hazardous elements Lower Cambrian Non-carcinogenic risk Cancer risk 



The author was highly acknowledged to National Natural Sciences Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41472322, 41172310) and National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) (Grant No. 2014CB238906) for providing laboratory facilities and financial support fieldwork.

Compliances with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

We declare that we have no financial and personal relationships with other people or organizations that can inappropriately influence our work; there is no professional or other personal interest of any nature or kind in any product, service and/or company that could be construed as influencing the position presented in, or the review of, the manuscript entitled.

Supplementary material

10653_2018_82_MOESM1_ESM.docx (245 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 245 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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