Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 2223–2238 | Cite as

Unraveling prevalence and public health risks of arsenic, uranium and co-occurring trace metals in groundwater along riverine ecosystem in Sindh and Punjab, Pakistan

  • Waqar Ali
  • Muhammad Wajahat Aslam
  • Caiyan Feng
  • Muhammad Junaid
  • Kamran Ali
  • Shehong Li
  • Zhe Chen
  • Ziheng Yu
  • Atta Rasool
  • Hua ZhangEmail author
Original Paper


The current study focuses on the understanding of contamination status, distribution, source apportionment and health perspectives of arsenic (As), uranium (U) and other co-occurring trace metals in the groundwater samples collected along the major rivers in Sindh and Punjab provinces, Pakistan. ICP-MS analysis revealed that the concentrations of As in the groundwater in Sindh and Punjab ranged from 0.2 to 81.1 µg/L (n = 38) and 1.1 to 501.1 µg/L (n = 110), respectively. Importantly, this study is the first evidence of U contamination in the groundwater samples in Pakistan, which revealed the concentrations of U at from 0.8 to 59.0 and 0.1 to 556.0 µg/L respectively, in Sindh and Punjab. Moreover, the concentrations of Sr and Mn exceeded the WHO limits in the current study area. Anthropogenic activities such as urbanization, direct dispose of industrial, agricultural waste into waterways and extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers might be the main sources of elevated levels of total dissolved solids and electrical conductivity, which increased the mobilization of As, U and Sr in the groundwater samples. Human health risk assessment parameters such as average daily dose, hazard quotient (HQ) and cancer risk indicated severe risks of As and U in the study area. The HQ values of As and U in Punjab were observed at 69.6 and 7.7, respectively, implying the severity of the health risks associated with consumption of contaminated groundwater for drinking purposes. In a nutshell, proactive control and rehabilitation measures are recommended to eradicate trace metals associated groundwater contamination in the targeted areas to avoid future worst scenarios.


Arsenic Uranium Groundwater Health risk Cancer risk Pakistan 



This work is supported by National Key R&D Program of China (No. 2017YFD0800302) and the Natural Science Foundation of China (4157312).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10653_2019_278_MOESM1_ESM.docx (53 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 53 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Waqar Ali
    • 1
    • 2
  • Muhammad Wajahat Aslam
    • 1
    • 2
  • Caiyan Feng
    • 1
  • Muhammad Junaid
    • 3
  • Kamran Ali
    • 5
  • Shehong Li
    • 1
  • Zhe Chen
    • 1
    • 4
  • Ziheng Yu
    • 1
  • Atta Rasool
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hua Zhang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuiyangChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory for Heavy Metal Pollution Control and Reutilization, School of Environment and EnergyPeking University Shenzhen Graduate SchoolShenzhenChina
  4. 4.Guangxi Key Laboratory of Environmental Pollution Control Theory and TechnologyGuilin University of TechnologyGuilinChina
  5. 5.Institute of Environmental Sciences and Engineering (IESE), School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (SCEE)National University of Science and Technology (NUST) IslamabadIslamabadPakistan

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