Heavy metal pollution and health risk assessment in the Wei River in China

  • Xuefu Yang
  • Jinming Duan
  • Lei Wang
  • Wei Li
  • Jianling Guan
  • Simon Beecham
  • Dennis Mulcahy


From data collected monthly at 26 monitoring cross sections in the Wei River in the Shaanxi Region of China during the period 2008–2012, the temporal pollution characteristics of heavy metals (Hg, Cd, Cr(VI), Pb, and As) were analyzed based on a heavy metal pollution index (HPI). The monthly HPI values of the five heavy metals in the river fluctuated greatly in 2008 and then declined gradually with time. This general trend of reduction in HPI appears not to have a seasonal variation and most likely resulted from the continued improvement in heavy metal pollution control strategies implemented by local environmental agencies combined with a significant improvement in wastewater treatment capacities. Among the five heavy metals, Cd and Pb were below 0.1 and 3 μg L−1, respectively, at all the sampling points in the studied areas in the year 2012. The detection rates of As, Hg, and Cr(VI) were in the order of Hg > Cr(VI) > As. Hg, Cr(VI), and As exceeded, in a month of the dry season in 2012, the standard limits for category III surface waters according to the China Environment Quality Standards for Surface Water (CEQSSW). Based on the assessment using the HPI method, the pollution status of these heavy metals in water of the Wei River in the Shaanxi Region was generally at an acceptable level, but exhibited distinctive characteristics between the main stream river and tributaries. Most of the tributaries were more seriously polluted than the main river. A health risk assessment was conducted based on the Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) method recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Apart from As, the health risk for the five heavy metals in the region were at acceptable levels for drinking water sources (hazard quotient (HQ) < 1, carcinogenic risk (CR) ranged from 10−4–10−6) according to the Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund (RAGS), USEPA. Arsenic was identified as the most important pollutant of concern among the five heavy metals; both its values of the HQ and CR indicated potentially adverse health risks for the local population.


Wei River Heavy metals Heavy metal pollution index (HPI) Health risk assessment 



Financial support from the Special Research Program Development Foundation of Shaanxi, China (DB03087) is gratefully acknowledged.

Supplementary material

10661_2014_4202_MOESM1_ESM.doc (136 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 136 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xuefu Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jinming Duan
    • 1
    • 4
  • Lei Wang
    • 3
  • Wei Li
    • 1
  • Jianling Guan
    • 3
  • Simon Beecham
    • 4
  • Dennis Mulcahy
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Environmental and Municipal EngineeringXi’an University of Architecture and TechnologyXi’anChina
  2. 2.School of Civil and Architecture EngineeringXi’an Technological UniversityXi’anChina
  3. 3.Shaanxi Environmental Monitoring CenterXi’anChina
  4. 4.Centre for Water Management and Reuse, School of Natural and Built EnvironmentsUniversity of South AustraliaMawson LakesAustralia

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