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Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 30, pp 30642–30662 | Cite as

Arsenic contamination, subsequent water toxicity, and associated public health risks in the lower Indus plain, Sindh province, Pakistan

  • Asfandyar ShahabEmail author
  • Shihua Qi
  • Muhammad Zaheer
Water Environment Protection and Contamination Treatment

Abstract

Arsenic (As) contamination in drinking water is a global public health risk. The present study highlighted the geological and anthropogenic causes of As contamination in groundwater (GW) and surface water (SW) and assessment of their potential health risks in Sindh province of Pakistan. Upon analyzing 720 GW and SW samples from 18 different sites, the estimates of As in groundwater and surface water was observed in the range of 0 to 125 and 0 to 35 μg/L with mean values of 46.8 and 15.43 μg/L respectively. Majority of the samples exceeded WHO permissible limit of As (10 μg/L) with higher concentration detected in groundwater samples compared to surface water. Moreover, both of these sample sources were found not potable based on physicochemical characteristics. The results of statistical analysis (correlation analysis, principal component analysis (PCA), and hierarchy cluster analysis (HCA)) indicate that natural mobilization of As in groundwater is believed to be enhanced by the pH-based reductive dissolution of iron hydroxide (FeOH) and competitive sorption of bicarbonate minerals in the presence of microorganisms along with evaporative enrichment while water logging, coal mining, and excessive use of pesticides are believed to be the anthropogenic causes of As enrichment. Furthermore, enormous health risk was associated with As in terms of chronic daily intake (CRI), hazard quotient (HQ), and cancer risk probability (CR) in GW and SW. Mean HQ values in GW were 4.47 mg/kg/day in adults and 3.89 mg/kg/day in children (standard HQ ≤ 1) and was 1.43 and 1.28 mg/kg/day in SW. Mean CR value in both GW and SW was found higher than the safe limit (10−6) having a mean of 2 × 10−3 in GW and 7 × 10−4 (mg/kg/day) in SW. These findings suggest that majority of the sampling sites carry serious public health risk due to high As values and hence demands exigent remedial and management measures.

Keywords

Arsenic Ground- and surface water Physicochemical parameters Spatial distribution Multivariate analysis Risk assessment 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) for their support in sampling and analysis.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Environmental Science and EngineeringGuilin University of TechnologyGuilin CityPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Environmental Studies, Department of Environmental ScienceChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Management & PolicyBalochistan University of IT, Engineering and Management SciencesQuettaPakistan

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