Environmental Earth Sciences

, 78:616 | Cite as

Distribution and contamination assessment of potentially harmful elements (As, Pb, Ni, Cd) in top soil of Penang Island, Malaysia

  • F. A. Z. Abdul HamidEmail author
  • A. F. Abu Bakar
  • T. F. Ng
  • A. A. Ghani
  • M. T. Mohamad Zulkifley
Original Article


This study discusses the distribution and contamination levels of potentially harmful elements (As, Pb, Ni, and Cd) in the urban top soil of Penang Island, one of the most important urban areas in Malaysia. The total surface area of Penang Island is 297 km2. Thirty-one surface soil samples (0–20 cm) were collected, digested and analysed using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) for As, Pb, Ni, and Cd. The result showed that the mean concentrations of selected metals in soils were arranged in the following decreasing order: Pb > As > Ni > Cd. In terms of different soil types, soils derived from quaternary deposit have higher mean concentration of Pb, Ni, and Cd as compared to the granite residual soils which accumulate higher mean concentration of As. On the spatial distribution maps, As, Pb, Ni, and Cd are mainly concentrated in the north-to-north eastern areas of Penang Island and near to the main city, which are characterized by major residential and business areas. Thus, it suggests that the anthropogenic source is the main contributor to the As, Pb, Ni, and Cd in the top soil of Penang Island. Both Pearson correlation analysis and principal component analysis showed a strong positive correlation between Pb and Cd which indicated that they may be derived from a similar source. The contamination factor assessment indicates moderate contamination level for Pb and Ni and no element enrichment level for As and Cd.


Metals Urban Top soil Penang Island 



This work was supported by the Institute of Research Management and Monitoring (IPPP), University of Malaya, under BKP Research Grant no. BK058-2015. Mr. Zaharudin Md Salleh, Mr. Zamrut Daunar, Miss. Nusyahira Ismail, and Mr. Shahrom Said from the Department of Geology and Mr. Saharuddin Zainal from Department of Chemistry, University of Malaya, are also acknowledged here for their technical support in geochemical analyses. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia

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