RETRACTED ARTICLE: Heavy metal pollution in surface soils of Pearl River Delta, China

  • Bai JinmeiEmail author
  • Liu Xueping


Heavy metal pollution is an increasing environmental problem in Chinese regions undergoing rapid economic and industrial development, such as the Pearl River Delta (PRD), southern China. We determined heavy metal concentrations in surface soils from the PRD. The soils were polluted with heavy metals, as defined by the Chinese soil quality standard grade II criteria. The degree of pollution decreased in the order Cd > Cu > Ni > Zn > As > Cr > Hg > Pb. The degree of heavy metal pollution by land use decreased in the order waste treatment plants (WP) > urban land (UL) > manufacturing industries (MI) > agricultural land (AL) > woodland (WL) > water sources (WS). Pollution with some of the metals, including Cd, Cu, Ni, and Zn, was attributed to the recent rapid development of the electronics and electroplating industries. Cd, Hg, and Pb (especially Cd) pose high potential ecological risks in all of the zones studied. The soils posing significantly high and high potential ecological risks from Cd covered 73.3 % of UL, 50 % of MI and WP land, and 48.5 % of AL. The potential ecological risks from heavy metals by land use decreased in the order UL > MI > AL > WP > WL > WS. The control of Cd, Hg, and Pb should be prioritized in the PRD, and emissions in wastewater, residue, and gas discharges from the electronics and electroplating industry should be decreased urgently. The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides should also be decreased.


Heavy metals Soil pollution Land-use patterns Potential ecological risk 



The Pearl River Delta


Waste treatment plants


Urban land


Manufacturing industry


Agricultural land




Water sources



The authors are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. The authors gratefully acknowledge Prof. Hefa Cheng, Dr. Yuanan Hu, and Prof. Eddy Y. Zeng in the State Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences for their moral and material support and valuable suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Petroleum EngineeringChangzhou UniversityChangzhouChina
  2. 2.College of Ecological Environment and Urban ConstructionFujian University of TechnologyFuzhouChina

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