Cadmium and chromium levels in water and edible herbs in a risk assessment study of rural residents living in Eastern Iran

  • Mohammad Hossein Sayadi
  • Javad Kharkan
  • Lukasz J. Binkowski
  • Mahmoud Moshgani
  • Martyna Błaszczyk
  • Borhan MansouriEmail author
Research Article


In arid and semi-arid regions of Iran, water is supplied by qanats, underground channels where pollution is suspected, but unestablished. The aim of this study was thus to run a risk assessment study regarding the levels of cadmium (Cd) and chromium (Cr) in qanat water and edible herbs (Adiantum capillus-verenis, Chara globularis and Plantago lanceolata) growing in qanats in 14 villages in South Khorasan Province in Iran between April and August 2018. Samples were collected in qanats from the same sampling points, and after mineralization in nitric and perchloric acids were analyzed for metal concentrations by means of atomic absorption spectrometry. Concentrations of Cd and Cr found in water were not high (0.028 and 1.091 μg L−1, respectively) and contamination parameters revealed no pollution. The ingestion rate of water and the exposure frequency to metals were the most relevant variables in the model of a sensitivity analysis, but the Hazard Quotient indicated no risk of non-carcinogenic health problems to consumers of the water. The Carcinogenic Risk parameter suggested, however, that there is a risk of these consumers’ developing cancer. Concentrations found in herbs were higher than in water but remained below permissible thresholds. Hazard Quotient values of three species studied in the case of children and A. capillus-verenis in the case of adults indicated a potential non-carcinogenic health risk linked with eating them. The study reveals that further research to include many of the qanats across Iran should be carried out to verify the scale of the risk suggested.

Graphical abstract


Metals Health risk Contamination index Carcinogenic risk Sensitivity analysis 



The contribution of the Department of Environmental Sciences, Birjand University is sincerely appreciated.

Funding information

The authors of this study gratefully acknowledge the Research Council of Birjand University (Grant number 96593) for their financial help.

Supplementary material

11356_2020_7600_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 20 kb)


  1. Akter M, Sikder T, Ullah AKMA (2014) Water quality assessment of an industrial zone polluted aquatic body in Dhaka. Bangladesh Amer J Environ Protec 3:232–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alahabadi A, Ehrampoush MH, Miri M, Ebrahimi Aval H, Yousefzadeh S, Ghaffari HR, Ahmadi E, Talebi P, Abaszadeh Fathabadi Z, Babai F, Sharafi K, Hosseini-Bandegharaei A (2017) A comparative study on capability of different tree species in accumulating heavy metals from soil and ambient air. Chemosphere 172:459–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alhashemi AS, Karbassi AR, Kiabi BH, Monavari SM, Nabavi SM, Sekhavatjou MS (2011) Bioaccumulation of trace elements in trophic levels of wetland plants and waterfowl birds. Biol Trace Elem Res 142(3):500–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Binkowski ŁJ, Rzonca B (2014) Seasonal variation of lead in fish pond waters of high hunting activity area and relation to metals and ions. Water Air Soil Pollut 225:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Binkowski ŁJ, Słoboda M, Dudzik P, Kłak M, Stawarz R (2017) Pollution of the artesian wells in the urban areas of Krakow. Europe Fresenius Environ Bull 26:846–853Google Scholar
  6. Cosgrove WJ, Loucks DP (2015) Water management: current and future challenges and research directions. Water Resour Res 51(6):4823–4839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Craig L, Lutz A, Berry KA, Yang W (2015) Recommendations for fluoride limits in drinking water based on estimated daily fluoride intake in the upper east region. Ghana Sci Total Environ 532:127–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dadolahi-Sohrab A, Nikvarz A, Nabavi SMB, Safahyeh A, Ketal-Mohseni M (2011) Environmental monitoring of heavy metals in seaweed and associated sediment from the strait of Hormuz, I.R. Iran. World J Fish Mari Sci 3(6):576–589Google Scholar
  9. Dehdari S, Hajimehdipoor H (2018) Medicinal properties of Adiantum capillus-veneris Linn. In traditional medicine and modern phytotherapy: a review article. Iran J Public Health 47(2):188–197Google Scholar
  10. Edet AE, Offiong OE (2002) Evaluation of water quality pollution indices for heavy metal contamination monitoring. A study case from Akpabuyo-Odukpani area, lower Cross River basin (southeastern Nigeria). Geo J 57:295–304Google Scholar
  11. ENSR (2005) Remedial investigation/feasibility study work plan: human health risk assessment work plan pines area of investigation AOC II docket. Research report no. V-W-04-C-784 of Human health risk assessment work planGoogle Scholar
  12. EPA (1999) Guidance for performing aggregate exposure and risk assessments. Office of Pesticide Programs, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  13. EPA (2017) Field sampling procedures for region 9 (surface water). Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, DC Available at https://wwwepagov/quality/field-sampling-procedures-region-9#sw Last access on 9th December 2019Google Scholar
  14. Fallahzadeh RA, Ghaneian MT, Miri M, Dashti MM (2017) Spatial analysis and health risk assessment of heavy metals concentration in drinking water resources. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24:24790–24802CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fallahzadeh RA, Miri M, Taghavi M, Gholizadeh A, Anbarani A, Hosseini-Bandegharaei A, Ferrante M, Oliveri Conti G (2018a) Spatial variation and probabilistic risk assessment of exposure to fluoride in drinking water. Food Chem Toxicol 113:314–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fallahzadeh RA, Khosravi R, Dehdashti B, Ghahramani E, Omidi F, Adli A, Miri M (2018b) Spatial distribution variation and probabilistic risk assessment of exposure to chromium in ground water supplies; a case study in the east of Iran. Food Chem Toxicol 115:260–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Farokhneshat F, Mahvi AH, Jamali Y (2016) Carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risk assessment of chromium in drinking water sources: Birjand. Iran Res J Environ Toxicol 10(3):166–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gleick PH, Palaniappan M (2010) Peak water limits to freshwater withdrawal and use. PNAS 107(25):11155–11162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hamidian A, Ghorbani MH, Abdolshahnejad M, Abdolshahnejad A (2015) Retracted: Qanat, traditional eco-technology for irrigation and water management. Agric Agric Sci Procedia 4:119–125Google Scholar
  20. Hu B, Jia X, Hu J, Xu D, Xia F, Li Y (2017) Assessment of heavy metal pollution and health risks in the soil-plant-human system in the Yangtze River Delta. China Int J Environ Res Public Health 14(9):1042–1059CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Integrated Environmental Management Inc. (IEM), Riverfront Environmental, Conestoga-Rovers and Associates Inc. (2007) Baseline human health risk assessment for the Westinghouse hematite site. Westinghouse, FestusGoogle Scholar
  22. Janadeleh H, Hosseini Alhashemi A, Nabavi SMB (2016) Investigation on concentration of elements in wetland sediments and aquatic plants. Global J Environ Sci Manage 2(1):87–93Google Scholar
  23. Kalisińska E (ed) (2019) Mammals and birds as bioindicators of trace element contaminations in terrestrial environments. Springer In PressGoogle Scholar
  24. Khan A, Khan S, Khan MA, Qamar Z, Waqas M (2015) The uptake and bioaccumulation of heavy metals by food plants, their effects on plants nutrients, and associated health risk: a review. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int 22:13772–13779CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Khan MU, Muhammad S, Malik RN, Khan SA, Tariq M (2016) Heavy metals potential health risk assessment through consumption of wastewater irrigated wild plants: a case study. Human Ecol Risk Assess Int J 22:141–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Li QS, Chen Y, Fu H, Cui Z, Shi L, Wang L, Liu Z (2012) Health risk of heavy metals in food crops grown on reclaimed tidal flat soil in the Pearl River Estuary. China J Hazard Mater 227-228:148–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Maleki A, Khorsandi A (2005) Qanat in Iran. The case study of Tehran qanats. Processing Enterprises and Urban Planning, Tehran, pp 234–257Google Scholar
  28. Miri M, Allahabadi A, Ghaffari HR, Fathabadi ZA, Raisi Z, Rezai M, Aval MY (2016) Ecological risk assessment of heavy metal (HM) pollution in the ambient air using a new bio-indicator. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23(14):14210–14220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Miri M, Bhatnagar A, Mahdavi Y, Basiri L, Nakhaei A, Khosravi R, Eslami H, Ghasemi SM, Balarak D, Alizadeh A, Mohammadi A, Derakhshan Z, Fallahzadeh AR, Toghavi M (2018) Probabilistic risk assessment of exposure to fluoride in most consumed brands of tea in the Middle East. Food Chem Toxicol 115:267–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mirzabeygi M, Abbasnia A, Yunesian M, Nodehi RN, Yousefi N, Hadi M, Mahvi AH (2017) Heavy metal contamination and health risk assessment in drinking water of Sistan and Baluchistan. Southeastern Iran Human Ecol Risk Assess 23:1893–1905CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Moghaddam MH, Lashkaripour GR, Dehghan P (2014) Assessing the effect of heavy metal concentrations (Fe, Pb, Zn, Ni, Cd, As, Cu, Cr) on the quality of adjacent groundwater resources of Khorasan steel complex. Int J Plant Anim Environ Sci 4(2):511–518Google Scholar
  32. Mukherjee S, Mukherjee S, Bhattacharyya P, Duttagupta AK (2004) Heavy metal levels and esterase variations between metal-exposed and unexposed duckweed Lemna minor: field and laboratory studies. Environ Int 30(6):811–814CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nordberg GF, Fowler BA, Nordberg M, Friberg LT (2007) Handbook on the toxicology of metals. Elsevier, LondonGoogle Scholar
  34. Peng C, Cai Y, Wang T, Xiao R, Chen W (2016) Regional probabilistic risk assessment of heavy metals in different environmental media and land uses: an urbanization-affected drinking water supply area. Sci Rep 6:37084. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Phillips DP, Human LRD, Adams JB (2015) Wetland plants as indicators of heavy metal contamination. Mar Pollut Bull 92(1–2):227–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Prasad B, Kumari P, Bano S, Kumari S (2014) Ground water quality evaluation near mining area and development of heavy metal pollution index. App Water Sci 4:11–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Prasanna MV, Praveena SM, Chidambaram S, Nagarajan R, Elayaraja A (2012) Evaluation of water quality pollution indices for heavy metal contamination monitoring: a case study from Curtin Lake, Miri City, East Malaysia. Environ Earth Sci 67(7):1987–2001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rajaei Q (2010) Qualitey study of groundwater resources in Gorganrood case study: Aliabad Katoul (dissertation for MSc degree of Environmental Science) Faculty of Agriculture University of BirjandGoogle Scholar
  39. Rajfur M, Kłos A, Wacławek M (2011) Algae utilization in assessment of the large Turawa Lake (Poland) pollution with heavy metals. J Environ Sci Health A 46(12):1401–1408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rybak A, Messyasz B, Łęska B (2012) Freshwater Ulva (Chlorophyta) as a bioaccumulator of selected heavy metals (Cd, Ni and Pb) and alkaline earth metals (Ca and Mg). Chemosphere 89(9):1066–1076CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Saleh HN, Panahande M, Yousefi M, Asghari FB, Oliveri Conti G, Talaee E, Mohammadi AA (2018) Carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risk assessment of heavy metals in groundwater wells in Neyshabur Plain. Iran Biol Trace Eleme Res 190:251–261. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shams A (2014) A rediscovered-new ‘Qanat’ system in the High Mountains of Sinai peninsula, with Levantine reflections. J Arid Environ 110:69–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sohn W, Heller KE, Burt BA (2001) Fluid consumption related to climate among children in the United States. J Publ Health Dent 61(2):99–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) (2005) Guidelines for carcinogen risk assessment. Risk Assessment Forum, Washington, DC EPA/630/P-03/001FGoogle Scholar
  45. Waseem A, Arshad J, Iqbal F, Sajjad A, Mehmood Z, Murtaza G (2014) Pollution status of Pakistan: a retrospective review on heavy metal contamination of water, soil, and vegetables. BioMed Res Int 2014:813206. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. WHO (2007) WHO guidelines for assessing quality of herbal medicines with reference to contaminants and residues. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  47. WHO (2008) Guidelines for drinking water quality. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  48. Yang H, Lv F, Zhou J, Song Y, Li F (2017) Health risk assessment of vegetables grown on the contaminated soils in Daye city of Hubei Province, China. Sustainability 9(11):2141–2155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yousefi M, Saleh HN, Yaseri M (2018a) Data on microbiological quality assessment of rural drinking water supplies in Poldasht County. Data Brief 17:763–769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yousefi M, Saleh HN, Mahvi AH, Alimohammadi M, Nabizadeh R, Mohammadi AA (2018b) Data on corrosion and scaling potential of drinking water resources using stability indices in Jolfa, East Azerbaijan, Iran. Data Brief 16:724–731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zahedi S (2017) Modification of expected conflicts between drinking water quality index and irrigation water quality index in water quality ranking of shared extraction wells using multi criteria decision making techniques. Ecol Indic 83:368–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zhang L, Huang D, Yang J, Wei X, Qin J, Ou S, Zhang Z, Zou Y (2017) Probabilistic risk assessment of Chinese residents’ exposure to fluoride in improved drinking water in endemic fluorosis areas. Environ Pollut 222:118–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences, School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of BirjandBirjandIran
  2. 2.Institute of BiologyPedagogical University of KrakowKrakowPoland
  3. 3.Substance Abuse Prevention Research Center, Health InstituteKermanshah University of Medical SciencesKermanshahIran

Personalised recommendations