Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, 224:1378 | Cite as

Lead and Arsenic Uptake by Leafy Vegetables Grown on Contaminated Soils: Effects of Mineral and Organic Amendments

  • Murray B. McBrideEmail author
  • Tobi Simon
  • Geoffrey Tam
  • Sarah Wharton


To assess strategies for mitigating Pb and As transfer into leafy vegetables from contaminated garden soils, we conducted greenhouse experiments using two field-contaminated soils amended with materials expected to reduce metal phytoavailability. Lettuce and mustard greens grown on these soils were analyzed by ICP-MS, showing that some Pb and As transfer into the vegetables occurred from both soils tested, but plant Pb concentrations were highly variable among treatment replicates. Soil-to-plant transfer was more efficient for As than for Pb. Contamination of the leaves by soil particles probably accounted for most of the vegetable Pb, since plant Pb concentrations were correlated to plant tissue concentrations of the immobile soil elements Al and Fe. This correlation was not observed for vegetable As concentrations, evidence that most of the soil-to-plant transfer for this toxic metal occurred by root uptake and translocation into the above-ground tissues. A follow-up greenhouse experiment with lettuce on one of the two contaminated soils revealed a lower and less variable foliar Pb concentration than observed in the first experiment, with evidence of less soil particle contamination of the crop. This reduced transfer of Pb to the crop appeared to be a physical effect attributable to the greater biomass causing reduced overall exposure of the above-ground tissues to the soil surface. Attempts to reduce soil Pb and As solubility and plant uptake by amendment at practical rates with stabilizing materials, including composts, peat, Ca phosphate, gypsum, and Fe oxide, were generally unsuccessful. Only Fe oxide reduced soluble As in the soil, but this effect did not persist. Phosphate amendment rapidly increased soil As solubility but had no measurable effect on either soil Pb solubility or concentrations of Pb or As in the leafy vegetables. The ineffectiveness of these amendments in reducing Pb transfer into leafy vegetables is attributed in this study to the low initial Pb solubility of the studied soils and the fact that the primary mechanism of Pb transfer is physical contamination.


Lead Arsenic Leafy vegetables Soil remediation Metal stabilization Heavy metal uptake 



This research was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grant number 1R21ES017921-01. We wish to thank Dr. Joshua Cheng at Brooklyn College for the soil water analyses by ICP-MS.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Murray B. McBride
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tobi Simon
    • 1
  • Geoffrey Tam
    • 1
  • Sarah Wharton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Crop and Soil SciencesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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