Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 20, Issue 9, pp 6150–6159 | Cite as

Assessing heavy metal pollution in the surface soils of a region that had undergone three decades of intense industrialization and urbanization

  • Yuanan Hu
  • Xueping Liu
  • Jinmei Bai
  • Kaimin Shih
  • Eddy Y. Zeng
  • Hefa Cheng
Research Article


Heavy metals in the surface soils from lands of six different use types in one of the world’s most densely populated regions, which is also a major global manufacturing base, were analyzed to assess the impact of urbanization and industrialization on soil pollution. A total of 227 surface soil samples were collected and analyzed for major heavy metals (As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn) by using microwave-assisted acid digestion and inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Multivariate analysis combined with enrichment factors showed that surface soils from the region (>7.2 × 104 km2) had mean Cd, Cu, Zn, and As concentrations that were over two times higher than the background values, with Cd, Cu, and Zn clearly contributed by anthropogenic sources. Soil pollution by Pb was more widespread than the other heavy metals, which was contributed mostly by anthropogenic sources. The results also indicate that Mn, Co, Fe, Cr, and Ni in the surface soils were primarily derived from lithogenic sources, while Hg and As contents in the surface soils were controlled by both natural and anthropogenic sources. The pollution level and potential ecological risk of the surface soils both decreased in the order of: urban areas > waste disposal/treatment sites ∼ industrial areas > agricultural lands ∼ forest lands > water source protection areas. These results indicate the significant need for the development of pollution prevention and reduction strategies to reduce heavy metal pollution for regions undergoing fast industrialization and urbanization.


Heavy metal Pollution assessment Land use type Spatial pattern Multivariate analysis Potential ecological risk 



The authors thank Zaicheng He, Yanli Wei, Liangying Liu, Haiyan Hu, and Baozhong Zhang for help with field sampling. This work was supported in parts by the Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 41202251, 41121063, and 41073079) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Y234081001 and “Interdisciplinary Collaboration Team” program). This is contribution No. IS-1648 from GIGCAS.

Supplementary material

11356_2013_1668_MOESM1_ESM.doc (214 kb)
ESM 1(DOC 213 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuanan Hu
    • 1
  • Xueping Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jinmei Bai
    • 1
  • Kaimin Shih
    • 3
  • Eddy Y. Zeng
    • 1
  • Hefa Cheng
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Organic GeochemistryGuangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Civil EngineeringThe University of Hong KongHong KongChina

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