Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 17, pp 16955–16964 | Cite as

Health risk assessment of heavy metals in soil-plant system amended with biogas slurry in Taihu basin, China

Research Article


Biogas slurry is a product of anaerobic digestion of manure that has been widely used as a soil fertilizer. Although the use for soil fertilizer is a cost-effective solution, it has been found that repeated use of biogas slurry that contains high heavy metal contents can cause pollution to the soil-plant system and risk to human health. The objective of this study was to investigate effects of biogas slurry on the soil-plant system and the human health. We analyzed the heavy metal concentrations (including As, Pb, Cu, Zn, Cr and Cd) in 106 soil samples and 58 plant samples in a farmland amended with biogas slurry in Taihu basin, China. Based on the test results, we assessed the potential human health risk when biogas slurry containing heavy metals was used as a soil fertilizer. The test results indicated that the Cd and Pb concentrations in soils exceeded the contamination limits and Cd exhibited the highest soil-to-root migration potential. Among the 11 plants analyzed, Kalimeris indica had the highest heavy metal absorption capacity. The leafy vegetables showed higher uptake of heavy metals than non-leafy vegetables. The non-carcinogenic risks mainly resulted from As, Pb, Cd, Cu and Zn through plant ingestion exposure. The integrated carcinogenic risks were associated with Cr, As and Cd in which Cr showed the highest risk while Cd showed the lowest risk. Among all the heavy metals analyzed, As and Cd appeared to have a lifetime health threat, which thus should be attenuated during production of biogas slurry to mitigate the heavy metal contamination.


Biogas slurry Heavy metals Soil-plant system Risk assessment 



Financial support for this study was provided by the Natural Science Fund Project in Jiangsu Province (BK20151596), the Program for “333” Excellent Talents in Jiangsu Province (BRA2015524).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11356_2016_6712_MOESM1_ESM.doc (159 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 159 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jiangsu Provincial Academy of Environmental ScienceNanjingChina
  2. 2.Jiangsu Province Key Laboratory of Environmental EngineeringNanjingChina
  3. 3.Terracon Consultants, IncSavannahUSA

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