Mercury accumulation and transformation of main leaf vegetable crops in Cambosol and Ferrosol soil in China

  • Bo Yang
  • Yi Gao
  • Chunxue Zhang
  • Xiangqun Zheng
  • Bo LiEmail author
Research Article


Leaf vegetables serve as an important food for the local residents in China. This paper focuses on the uptake, accumulation, transfer, and mercury (Hg) sensitivity of leafy vegetables. Two types of soil (an alkaline Cambosol and an acid Ferrosol) and eleven species of leafy vegetable, namely, Spinach, Tung choy, Leek, Fennel, Coriander, Chinese flowering cabbage, Wuta-tsai, Pakchoi, Chicory, Crown daisy, and Lettuce, were selected to investigate their sensitivity to Hg accumulation in a greenhouse pot experiment. Three Hg concentration treatments were carried out as control (background values), low concentration (1.5 times standard value), and high concentration (2 times standard value) as adjusted by the soil pH. Hg concentrations of more than half vegetable samples grown in Cambosol (collected from Shandong Province) reached or exceeded the maximum permissible food safety levels (10 μg kg-1) according to the General Standard of Contaminants in Food in China (GB 2762-2012), while only about 15% in Ferrosol (collected from Jiangxi Province). Meanwhile, Hg bio-concentration factors (BCF) in all treatments were < 1, while Hg translocation factors (TF) in most treatments were < 1. Correlation analysis among soil, root, and edible plant parts revealed that the principal source of Hg in leafy vegetables was most likely from Hg-contaminated soils. Species sensitivity distribution (SSD) models were constructed and their simulated curves indicated that sensitivity to Hg was highest in Pakchoi in low Hg-contaminated soils, and Chicory in highly Hg-contaminated soils. Therefore, Hg concentration is mostly accumulated in roots of leafy crops, which reduces the risk of Hg bioaccumulation in edible portion of vegetables, and (2) Brassicaceae vegetables are mostly less sensitive to soil Hg contamination. Our results provide effective guidance for the selection of leafy vegetables for cultivation and daily consumption that minimizes health risk.


Mercury sensitivity Leaf vegetable Transfer factors Bio-concentration factors Species sensitivity distribution 


Funding information

This work was supported by the project of Research on Migration/Transformation and Safety Threshold of Heavy Metals in Farmland Systems (2016YFD0800400), National Key Research and Development Program of China.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11356_2019_6798_MOESM1_ESM.docx (32 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 32 kb)


  1. Balland-Bolou-Bi C, Bolou-BiE B, Alphonse V, Giusti-Miller S, Jusselme MD, Livet A et al (2019) Impact of microbial activity on the mobility of metallic elements (Fe, Al and Hg) in tropical soils. Geoderma 334:146–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brix KV, Deforest DK, Adams WJ (2001) Assessing acute and chronic copper risks to freshwater aquatic life using species sensitivity distributions for different taxonomic groups. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 20(8):1846–1856CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chang CY, Yu HY, Chen JJ, Li FB, Zhang HH, Liu CP (2014) Accumulation of heavy metals in leaf vegetables from agricultural soils and associated potential health risks in the pearl river delta, south China. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 186(3):1547–1560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Coufalík P, Krásensky P, Dosbaba M, Komárek J (2012) Sequential extraction and thermal desorption of mercury from contaminated soil and tailings from Mongolia. Central European Journal of Chemistry 10(5):1565–1573Google Scholar
  5. Ding CF, Zhang TL, Li XG, Wang XX (2014) Major controlling factors and prediction models for mercury transfer from soil to carrot. Journal of Soils and Sediments 14(6):1136–1146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ding CF, Ma YB, Li XG, Zhang TL, Wang XX (2016) Derivation of soil thresholds for lead applying species sensitivity distribution: a case study for root vegetables. Journal of Hazardous Materials 303:21–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dong H, Lin Z, Wan X, Feng L (2017) Risk assessment for the mercury polluted site near a pesticide plant in Changsha, Hunan, China. Chemosphere 169:333–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dziubanek G, Piekut A, Rusin M, Baranowska R, Hajok I (2015) Contamination of food crops grown on soils with elevated heavy metals content. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 118:183–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Garg VK, Yadav P, Mor S, Singh B, Pulhani V (2014) Heavy metals bioconcentration from soil to vegetables and assessment of health risk caused by their ingestion. Biological Trace Element Research 157(3):256–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ghasemidehkordi B, Malekirad AA, Nazem H, Fazilati M, Salavati H, Shariatifar N, Rezaei M, Fakhri Y, Mousavi Khaneghah A (2018) Concentration of lead and mercury in collected vegetables and herbs from Markazi province, Iran: a non-carcinogenic risk assessment. Food and Chemical Toxicology 113:204–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ha E, Basu N, Bose-O'Reilly S, Dórea JG, Mcsorley E, Sakamoto M et al (2016) Current progress on understanding the impact of mercury on human health. Environmental Research 152:419–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hong ZC, Guo YL, Wang G (2015) Mercury pollution and its influencing factors of vegetable soils in Fujian Province, China. J Agr Res Environ 32(2): 198-203 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  13. Hu W, Chen Y, Huang B, Niedermann S (2014) Health risk assessment of heavy metals in soils and vegetables from a typical greenhouse vegetable production system in china. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment 20(5):1264–1280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hung JJ, Lu CC, Huh CA, Liu JT (2009) Geochemical controls on distributions and speciation of as and hg in sediments along the Gaoping (Kaoping) estuary-canyon system off southwestern Taiwan. Journal of Marine Systems 76(4):479–495CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jia Q, Zhu X, Hao Y, Yang Z, Wang Q, Fu H et al (2018) Mercury in soil, vegetable and human hair in a typical mining area in China: implication for human exposure. Journal of Environmental Sciences 68(6):73–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Li G, Feng X, Qiu G, Bi X, Li Z, Zhang C, Wang D, Shang L, Guo Y (2008) Environmental mercury contamination of an artisanal zinc smelting area in Weining county, Guizhou, China. Environmental Pollution 154(1):21–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Liang P, Li YC, Zhang C, Wu SC, Cui HJ, Yu S et al (2013) Effects of salinity and humic acid on the sorption of hg on Fe and Mn hydroxides. Journal of Hazardous Materials 244-245(2):322–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Liao LX, Selim HM, Delaune RD (2009) Mercury adsorption-desorption and transport in soils. Journal of Environmental Quality 38(4):1608–1616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lin Y, Vogt R, Larssen T (2012) Environmental mercury in China: a review. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 31:2431–2444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Liu H, Probst A, Liao B (2005) Metal contamination of soils and crops affected by the Chenzhou lead/zinc mine spill (Hunan, China). Sci Total Environ 339(1-3):153–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Liu XM, Song QJ, Tang Y, Li WL, Xu JM, Wu JJ, Wang F, Brookes PC (2013) Human health risk assessment of heavy metals in soil-vegetable system: a multi-medium analysis. Sci Total Environ 463-464:530–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lomonte C, Doronila AI, Gregory D, Baker AJM, Kolev SD (2010) Phytotoxicity of biosolids and screening of selected plant species with potential for mercury phytoextraction. Journal of Hazardous Materials 173(1-3):494–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Loredo J, Ordóñez A, Rodrigo A (2006) Environmental impact of toxic metals and metalloids from the Muñón Cimero mercury-mining area (Asturias, Spain). Journal of Hazardous Materials 136(3):455–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Luo CL, Liu CP, Wang Y, Liu X, Li FB, Zhang C, Li XD (2011) Heavy metal contamination in soils and vegetables near an e-waste processing site, south China. Journal of Hazardous Materials 186(1):481–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Marrugo-Negrete J, Marrugo-Madrid S, Pinedo-Hernández J, Durango-Hernández J, Díez S (2016) Screening of native plant species for phytoremediation potential at a Hg-contaminated mining site. Sci Total Environ 542:809–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mattina MI, Lannucci-Berger W, Musante C, White JC (2003) Concurrent plant uptake of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants from soil. Environmental Pollution 124:375–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Meng W, Wang Z, Hu B, Wang Z, Li H, Goodman RC (2016) Heavy metals in soil and plants after long-term sewage irrigation at Tianjin China: a case study assessment. Agricultural Water Management 171:153–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Moreno-Jiménez E, Esteban E, Carpena-Ruiz RO, Peñalosa JM (2009) Arsenic- and mercury-induced phytotoxicity in the Mediterranean shrubs Pistacia lentiscus and Tamarix gallica grown in hydroponic culture. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 72(6):1781–1789CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nastaran M, Alain B (2009) EDTA in soil science: A review of its application in soil trace metal studies. Terr Aquat Environ Tox 3(1):1–15Google Scholar
  30. Pérez-Sanz A, Millán R, Sierra MJ, Alarcón R, García P, Gil-Díaz M et al (2012) Mercury uptake by silene vulgaris grown on contaminated spiked soils. Journal of Environmental Management 95:s233–s237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pueyo M, López-Sánchez JF, Rauret G (2004) Assessment of CaCl2, NaNO3 and NH4NO3 extraction procedures for the study of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn extractability in contaminated soils. Analytica Chimica Acta 504(2):217–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rodrigues SM, Henriques B, Reis AT, Duarte AC, Pereira E, Römkens PFAM (2012) Hg transfer from contaminated soils to plants and animals. Environmental Chemistry Letters 10:61–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Shao DD, Wu SC, Liang P, Kang Y, Fu WJ, Zhao KL, Cao ZH, Wong MH (2012) A human health risk assessment of mercury species in soil and food around compact fluorescent lamp factories in Zhejiang Province, PR China. Journal of Hazardous Materials 221-222:28–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Stamenkovic J, Gustin MS (2009) Nonstomatal versus stomatal uptake of atmospheric mercury. Environmental Science & Technology 43(5):1367–1372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Straalen NMV, Posthuma L (2002) Theory of ecological risk assessment based on species sensitivity distributions. Palaeogeogr Palaeocl 175(1-4):249–272Google Scholar
  36. Sysalová J, Kučera J, Drtinová B, Červenka R, Zvěřina O, Komárek J, Kameník J (2017) Mercury species in formerly contaminated soils and released soil gases. Sci Total Environ 584-585:1032–1039CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Szopka K, Karczewska A, Kabała C (2011) Mercury accumulation in the surface layers of mountain soils: a case study from the Karkonosze Mountains, Poland. Chemosphere 83(11):1507–1512CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tchounwou PB, Yedjou CG, Patlolla AK, Sutton DJ (2012) Heavy metals toxicity and the environment. Mol Clin Environ Tox 101:133–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Temmerman LD, Waegeneers N, Claeys N, Roekens E (2009) Comparison of concentrations of mercury in ambient air to its accumulation by leafy vegetables: an important step in terrestrial food chain analysis. Environmental Pollution 157(4):1337–1341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ullrich SM, Tanton TW, Abdrashitova SA (2001) Mercury in the aquatic environment: a review of factors affecting methylation. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology 31(3):241–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wai K, Dai J, Yu P, Zhou X, Wong C (2017) Public health risk of mercury in China through consumption of vegetables, a modelling study. Environmental Research 159:152–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wang G, Su MY, Chen YH, Lin FF, Luo D, Gao SF (2006) Transfer characteristics of cadmium and lead from soil to the edible parts of six vegetable species in southeastern China. Environmental Pollution 144(1):127–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wang SL, Nan ZR, Prete D, Ma JM, Liao Q, Zhang Q (2016) Accumulation, transfer, and potential sources of mercury in the soil-wheat system under field conditions over the loess plateau, northwest China. Sci Total Environ 568:245–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wheeled J, Grist E, Leung K, Morritt D, Crane M (2002) Species sensitivity distributions: data and model choice. Marine Pollution Bulletin 45(1):192–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wu XQ, Ernst F, Conkle JL, Gan J (2013) Comparative uptake and translocation of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) by common vegetables. Environment International 60:15–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Yang YK, Zhang C, Shi XJ, Lin T, Wang DY (2007) Effect of organic matter and pH on mercury release from soils. Journal of Environmental Sciences 19(11):1349–1354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yin R, Zhang W, Sun G, Feng Z, Hurley JP, Yang L, Shang L, Feng X (2017) Mercury risk in poultry in the wanshan mercury mine, China. Environmental Pollution 230:810–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zacchini M, Pietrini F, Mugnozza GS, Iori V, Pietrosanti L, Massacci A (2009) Metal tolerance, accumulation and translocation in poplar and willow clones treated with cadmium in hydroponics. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 197(1-4):23–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zhao L, Qiu GL, Anderson CWN, Meng B, Wang DY, Shang LH, Yan H, Feng X (2016) Mercury methylation in rice paddies and its possible controlling factors in the Hg mining area, Guizhou province, Southwest China. Environmental Pollution 215:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agro-Environmental Protection InstituteMinistry of Agriculture and Rural AffairsTianjinChina
  2. 2.Chinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Natural Resources and EnvironmentSouth China Agricultural UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations