Toxic Metal Pollution in Pakistan and Its Possible Risks to Public Health

Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 242)


Environmental pollution has increased many folds in recent years and in some places has reached levels that are toxic to living things. Among pollutant types, toxic heavy metals and metalloids are among the chemicals that pose the highest threat to biological systems (Jjemba 2004). Unlike organic pollutants, which are biodegradable, heavy metals are not degraded into less hazardous end products (Gupta et al. 2001). Low concentrations of some heavy metals are essential for life, but some of them like Hg, As, Pb and Cd are biologically non-essential and very toxic to living organisms. Even the essential metals may become toxic if they are present at a concentration above the permissible level (Puttaiah and Kiran 2008). For example, exposure to Zn and Fe oxides produce gastric disorder and vomiting, irritation of the skin and mucous membranes. Intake of Ni, Cr, Pb, Cd and Cu causes heart problems, leukemia and cancer, while Co and Mg can cause anemia and hypertension (Drasch et al. 2006). Similarly, various studies indicated that overexposure to heavy metals in air can cause cardiovascular disorders (Miller et al. 2007; Schwartz 2001), asthma (Wiwatanadate and Liwsrisakun 2011), bronchitis/emphysema (Pope 2000), and other respiratory diseases (Dominici et al. 2006).


Heavy metals Health risk Risk assessment Water pollution Soil pollution Air pollution Permissible limits Industrial effluents Municipal wastes Vehicular emissions Hazard quotient Hazard index Reference dose Arsenic Cadmium Cobalt Chromium Copper Iron Mercury Manganese Nickel Lead Zinc Pakistan 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BotanyKohat University of Sciences and Technology (KUST)KohatPakistan
  2. 2.Department of Biotechnology and Genetic EngineeringKohat University of Science and TechnologyKohatPakistan
  3. 3.Department of MicrobiologyKohat University of Science and TechnologyKohatPakistan
  4. 4.MöhrendorfGermany

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