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Trends and Health Risks of Dissolved Heavy Metal Pollution in Global River and Lake Water from 1970 to 2017

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Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology Volume 251

Abstract

Heavy metal pollution in surface water is a global environmental problem. This study analyzed the trends, health risks, and sources of eight dissolved heavy metal species in river and lake water across five continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America; Oceania was excluded owing to a lack of data) for the period 1970–2017. We wanted to assess the effects of various implemented countermeasures to pollution and to determine those that could be adopted worldwide. Collectively, the water system showed increasing trends for Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Mn, and Fe and decreasing trends for Pb and Zn. The mean dissolved concentrations of most heavy metals were highest in Asia and lowest in Europe. Most heavy metals had low non-carcinogenic risks over this period. The cancer risks associated with Pb were lower than the hazardous level on all five continents over the five decades, whereas the cancer risks related to Cr exceeded the hazardous level in the 1970s, 2000s, and 2010s, and in Africa, Asia, and North America over the entire period. Mining and manufacturing were consistently found to be critical sources of metal pollution from 1970 to 2017. However, the heavy metal sources differed significantly by continent, with waste discharge and rock weathering dominant in Africa; mining and manufacturing, along with rock weathering, are dominant in Asia and South America; fertilizer and pesticide use, along with rock weathering, are dominant in North America; and mining and manufacturing, waste discharge, and rock weathering are dominant in Europe. Global trends in the metal loadings in water and in relevant pollution-control measures suggest that countermeasures in Europe have successfully controlled heavy metal pollution. The successful measures include implementing rigorous standards for metal emissions, limiting the metal concentrations in products, and rigorously treating metal-contaminated waste. Therefore, the measures implemented in Europe should be extended worldwide to treat heavy metal pollution in water.

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Abbreviations

CEC:

Council of the European Communities

CR:

Cancer risk

CSF:

Cancer slope factor

EPA:

Environmental Protection Agency

EU:

European Union

HI:

Hazard quotient index

HQ:

Hazard quotient

M-K:

Mann-Kendall

MLR:

Multiple linear regression

PCA:

Principal component analysis

RFD:

Reference dose

UNECE:

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

US:

United States

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Acknowledgments

The authors greatly appreciate Marco Vighi, associate editor of Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, and two anonymous reviewers for the constructive suggestions on this manuscript. The study was supported financially by the Key Research and Development Program of Hunan Province (2017WK2082; 2017SK2300; 2017NK2383), the Scientific Research Fund of Hunan Provincial Education Department (16B121), and the Science and Technology Program of the Forestry Department of Hunan Province (XKL201702).

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Li, Y. et al. (2019). Trends and Health Risks of Dissolved Heavy Metal Pollution in Global River and Lake Water from 1970 to 2017. In: de Voogt, P. (eds) Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology Volume 251. Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, vol 251. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/398_2019_27

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