Contamination of soil, medicinal, and fodder plants with lead and cadmium present in mine-affected areas, Northern Pakistan

  • Javed Nawab
  • Sardar KhanEmail author
  • Mohammad Tahir Shah
  • Zahir Qamar
  • Islamud Din
  • Qaisar Mahmood
  • Nayab Gul
  • Qing HuangEmail author


This study aimed to investigate the lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) concentrations in the soil and plants (medicinal and fodder) grown in chromite mining-affected areas, Northern Pakistan. Soil and plant samples were collected and analyzed for Pb and Cd concentrations using atomic absorption spectrometer. Soil pollution load indices (PLIs) were greater than 2 for both Cd and Pb, indicating high level of contamination in the study area. Furthermore, Cd concentrations in the soil surrounding the mining sites exceeded the maximum allowable limit (MAL) (0.6 mg kg−1), while the concentrations of Pb were lower than the MAL (350 mg kg−1) set by State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) for agriculture soil. The concentrations of Cd and Pb were significantly higher (P < 0.001) in the soil of the mining-contaminated sites as compared to the reference site, which can be attributed to the dispersion of toxic heavy metals, present in the bed rocks and waste of the mines. The concentrations of Pb and Cd in majority of medicinal and fodder plant species grown in surrounding areas of mines were higher than their MALs set by World Health Organization/Food Agriculture Organization (WHO/FAO) for herbal (10 and 0.3 mg kg−1, respectively) and edible (0.3 and 0.2 mg kg−1, respectively) plants. The high concentrations of Cd and Pb may cause contamination of the food chain and health risk.


Medicinal Bioaccumulation Concentration Health risk Fodder Chromite mining 



The financial assistance was provided by the Higher Education Commission Pakistan in the form of Ph.D indigenous scholarship, University of Peshawar, Pakistan and funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences Key Deployment Project (Project No. KZZD-EW-16-02). Mr. Javed Nawab thanks Chairman and Executive Director Environmental Protection Society Saidu Sharif, Swat for facilitating the field work.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Javed Nawab
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sardar Khan
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mohammad Tahir Shah
    • 4
  • Zahir Qamar
    • 2
  • Islamud Din
    • 5
  • Qaisar Mahmood
    • 6
  • Nayab Gul
    • 2
  • Qing Huang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Urban Environment and HealthInstitute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of SciencesXiamenChina
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of PeshawarPeshawarPakistan
  3. 3.Department of Environmental and Conservation SciencesUniversity of SwatSwatPakistan
  4. 4.National Center of Excellence in GeologyUniversity of PeshawarPeshawarPakistan
  5. 5.Department of Environmental SciencesIslamic International UniversityIslamabadPakistan
  6. 6.Department of Environmental Sciences COMSATSAbottabadPakistan

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