Heavy metal accumulation in vegetable species and health risk assessment in Serbia

  • Slobodanka Pajević
  • Danijela ArsenovEmail author
  • Nataša Nikolić
  • Milan Borišev
  • Dejan Orčić
  • Milan Župunski
  • Neda Mimica-Dukić


Continuous monitoring of heavy metal content in vegetables is of high priority for population nutrition control, as well as risk assessment for human health. The chemical composition of plants is a reliable indicator of their contamination by hazardous substances accumulated in the environment as a consequence of inadequately applied agro-technology. The main goal of this study was to examine the quality of vegetables that reach consumer markets as a function of growth location. Samples of 11 of the most common vegetable species used in the human diet were collected during a 4-year survey. Vegetables originated from local farm producers who cultivated them at different locations in Vojvodina Province, Serbia. Many vegetable samples contained disturbingly high levels of the investigated metals: cadmium, lead, nickel, and chromium. The plant species with the highest Cd accumulation was spinach, where Cd leaves exceeded the maximum permissible concentrations (MPCs) in more than half of the analyzed samples from different localities (54%). Pb concentrations in spinach were also higher than MPC values (according to Serbian law 3.0 μg/g) in 46% of all analyzed samples. Results showed that Cr levels in all tested vegetable species were below MPC values recommended by the FAO/WHO organization. The largest chromium accumulator was spinach, with average values of 2.3 μg/g, followed by beetroot and parsnips with an average concentration of 1.4 μg/g. The highest average content of Ni in all analyzed vegetable species was also recorded in spinach leaves, with an average value of 2.2 μg/g, followed by broccoli (1.7 μg/g) and tomatoes (1.5 μg/g).


Toxic element pollution Vegetable quality Green markets Hazard quotients Human health 



Research was conducted within the project titled: “Biologically active components and medical potential of functional food grown in Vojvodina Province, Serbia” no. 114-451-2149/2016-0, financed by government of Province of Vojvodina.

The manuscript was edited for English grammar and usage by dr Edward T. Petri.

Supplementary material

10661_2018_6743_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (88 kb)
Electronic Supplementary Material 1 The coordinates of the localities on which vegetables were grown (PDF 88 kb)
10661_2018_6743_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (1.8 mb)
Electronic Supplementary Material 2 (PDF 1882 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Sciences, Department for Biology and EcologyUniversity of Novi SadNovi SadSerbia

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