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Arsenic and Lead Uptake by Vegetable Crops Grown on Historically Contaminated Orchard Soils

DOI: 10.1155/2013/283472

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Transfer of Pb and As into vegetables grown on orchard soils historically contaminated by Pb arsenate pesticides was measured in the greenhouse. Lettuce, carrots, green beans, and tomatoes were grown on soils containing a range of total Pb (16.5–915?mg/kg) and As (6.9–211?mg/kg) concentrations. The vegetables were acid-digested and analyzed for total Pb and As using ICP-mass spectrometry. Vegetable contamination was dependent on soil total Pb and As concentrations, pH, and vegetable species. Arsenic concentrations were the highest in lettuce and green beans, lower in carrots, and much lower in tomato fruit. Transfer of Pb into lettuce and beans was generally lower than that of As, and Pb and As were strongly excluded from tomato fruit. Soil metal concentrations as high as 400?mg/kg Pb and 100?mg/kg As produced vegetables with concentrations of Pb and As below the limits of international health standards. 1. Introduction Arsenic (As) and lead (Pb) have been used historically in pesticides (e.g., calcium arsenate, lead arsenate, and copper arsenate) applied to orchard crops such as apples and peaches, as well as to some other crops such as potatoes. Because Pb is quite immobile, and As is only very slowly leached through soils [1, 2], the cumulative contamination of orchard soils by lead and arsenate beginning in the late 1800s persists today [3]. As old orchard lands are converted from agricultural to residential uses, the potential hazard to human health may be increased from certain exposure pathways arising from gardening and direct contact with soil. The scale of this problem is largely based on estimates that millions of acres across North America have been contaminated by arsenic and lead pesticides. Virginia may have 100,000–300,000 acres of old orchard land [3], and other states with large acreages of impacted orchard land include Washington (188,000 acres), Wisconsin (50,000 acres) and New Jersey (up to 5% of the total agricultural acreage) [2]. The total area of historical soil contamination in New York state is uncertain, but apple production has occupied about 40–50,000 acres in recent decades, with a general long-term decline in orchard acreage and a simultaneous increase in yield. It seems likely, then, that the present apple crop acreage underestimates the total land area that may have been contaminated by As and Pb at some time in the past. The potential transfer of soil Pb and As into vegetable crops is a concern when garden soils are contaminated by these toxic metals. With growing concern about dietary exposure to these two toxic


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