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Human health risk assessment of heavy metals in raw milk of buffalo feeding at wastewater-irrigated agricultural farms in Pakistan


Wastewater irrigation to grow fodder for animals and cattle farming is common practice in Pakistan. Hence, this study was conducted in Multan, Pakistan, to assess heavy metal pollution, human health risk and the total target health quotient (TTHQ) of heavy metals in raw milk of buffalo feeding at different agricultural farms and to identify sources of toxicity in milk. Samples of raw milk (n = 60) were analyzed for Cd, Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, and Pb by ICP-OES, Perkin Elmer, USA. The TTHQ values of heavy metals ranged from 6.92 to 42.44 in raw milk of buffalo, highest at wastewater-irrigated agricultural farms and lowest at tube well water site, indicating high carcinogenic health risk to exposed population. The multivariate statistical analysis revealed that contaminated fodder like Maize and Brassica plants grown with wastewater and contaminated soil are common sources contributing the heavy metal contamination in raw milk. It invites attention of government to remediate the situation to avoid the potential risks to public health from resulting food chain contamination.

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The authors acknowledge the cooperation of Farzana Bashir and Rauf Ahmed from the Pakistan Council for Science and Industrial Research lab Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan, for help during sample analysis.


The authors declare that there is no source of funding in this study.

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Iqbal, Z., Abbas, F., Ibrahim, M. et al. Human health risk assessment of heavy metals in raw milk of buffalo feeding at wastewater-irrigated agricultural farms in Pakistan. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27, 29567–29579 (2020).

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  • Heavy metals
  • Animal fodder
  • Milk contamination
  • Carcinogenic health risk
  • Wastewater-irrigated farms