A Survey of Arsenic Concentrations in Vegetables and Soils in Beijing and the Potential Risks to Human Health

  • 1. Center for Environmental Remediation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China;
    2. Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100039, China

Received date: 2005-07-26

  Revised date: 2005-12-20

  Online published: 2006-03-25

Supported by

The National Science Fund of China for Distinguished Young Scholars, No.40325003; The National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40232022; The Natural Science Foundation of Beijing, No.6990002


In order to assess the risks to human health posed by elevated concentrations of arsenic in vegetables, and to identify pollution-tolerant vegetable varieties, a large scale survey of arsenic levels in soils and vegetables planted or sold in Beijing was conducted. Thirty-nine soil samples were collected from gardens and fields used to grow vegetable plants. In addition, 93 varieties of more than 400 fresh vegetable samples were obtained from vegetable stalls, supermarkets and wholesale outlets. Arsenic concentrations were measured using hydride generation atomic fluorescence spectroscopy (HG-AFS). Arsenic concentrations in soils ranged from 4.44 to 25.3 mg kg-1, with arithmetic and geometric means of 9.40 and 8.79 mg kg-1, respectively. Compared with the background arsenic concentrations of soil from Beijing, there appeared to be a significant accumulation of arsenic in soil collected from gardens/fields that produce vegetables. Arsenic concentrations in the edible plant portions ranged from less than the analytical detection limit (0.1 μg kg-1 fresh weight) to 0.479 mg kg-1 fresh weight, with a mean of 0.028 mg kg-1 fresh weight. In all of the samples, arsenic was less than the Tolerance Limit of Arsenic in Foods for China (TLAFC) of 0.5 mg kg-1 fresh weight. The TLAFC is the maximum permissible concentration of arsenic in vegetables that will be consumed by people. The highest level of arsenic detected in a vegetable plant was 0.479 mg kg-1, which was measured in a radish (Raphanus sp.) sample obtained from the Fengtai District of Beijing. Arsenic was detected at 0.331 mg kg-1 in a garlic sample collected from Shandong Province, which is higher than the standard of 0.25 mg kg-1 set by WHO/FAO. The spatial distribution of arsenic concentrations in vegetables planted in Beijing presented apparently a "U-shaped" pattern at the northeast deflection angle of 11o-30o. The arsenic concentration in field-grown vegetables was significantly higher than the concentration of those planted in a greenhouse.Results of hierarchical cluster analysis on the arsenic bioconcentration factor (BCF) in vegetables indicated that the plants sampled could be separated into two groups based on BCF. Rape (Brassica campestris), radish (Raphanus sp.), pakchoi (Brassica chinensis), onion (Allium fistulosum), mustard (Brassica juncea), cucumber (Cucumis sativus), Chinese cabbage (Brassica pekinensis) and cabbage (Brassica caulorapa) had higher arsenic BCFs while chili (Capsicum annuum), beans round trellis (Vigna unguiculata), wax gourd (Beninacasa hispida), eggplant (Solanum sp.), spinach (Spinacia oleracea), tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) and celery (Apium graveolens) had lower arsenic BCFs. The average ingestion rate of arsenic from vegetables was 0.016 mg/person/day for people of Beijing. Consuming vegetables with elevated arsenic concentrations may pose a health risk to local residents, particularly the young, elderly, or ill.

Cite this article

CHEN Tongbin, SONG Bo, ZHENG Yuanming, HUANG Zechun,ZHENG Guodi, LI Yanxia, LEI Mei, LIAO Xiaoyong . A Survey of Arsenic Concentrations in Vegetables and Soils in Beijing and the Potential Risks to Human Health[J]. Acta Geographica Sinica, 2006 , 61(3) : 297 -310 . DOI: 10.11821/xb200603009


[1] Hung C L H, So M K, Connell D W et al. A preliminary risk assessment of trace elements accumulated in fish to the Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) in the Northwestern waters of Hong Kong. Chemosphere, 2004, 56(7): 643-651.

[2] Ferreira B L, De Miguel E. Geochemistry and risk assessment of street dust in Luanda, Angola: a tropical urban environment. Atmospheric Environment, 2005, 39(25): 4501-4512.

[3] Xie Zhengmiao. Effects of combined pollution of lead, zinc and arsenic on rice growth. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 1994, 14(2): 215-217.
[谢正苗. 铅锌砷复合污染对水稻生长的影响. 生态学报, 1994, 14(2): 215-217.]

[4] Joyce S T, Robert B, Rosalind A et al. Health effect levels for risk assessment of childhood exposure to arsenic. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 2004, 39(2): 99-110.

[5] Badal K M, Kazuo T S. Arsenic round the world: a review. Talanta, 2002, 58: 201-235.

[6] Tsuda T, Babazono A, Yamamoto E et al. Ingested arsenic and internal cancer: a historical cohort study followed for 33 years. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1995, 141: 198-209.

[7] Xie Zhengmiao, Liao Min, Huang Changyong. Effects of arsenic pollution on plants and human health and countermeasures. Journal of Guangdong Trace Elements, 1997, 4(7): 17-21.
[谢正苗, 廖敏, 黄昌勇. 砷污染对植物和人体健康的影响及防治对策. 广东微量元素科学, 1997, 4(7): 17-21.]

[8] Chen Tongbin, Zheng Yuanming, Chen Huang et al. Arsenic accumulation in soils for different land use types in Beijing. Geographical Research, 2005, 24(2): 229-235.
[陈同斌, 郑袁明, 陈煌 等. 北京市不同土地利用类型的土壤砷含量特征. 地理研究, 2005, 24(2): 229-235.]

[9] Wang Maoqi, Wang Zhutian, Ran Lu et al. Study on food contaminants monitoring in China during 2000-2001. Journal of Hygiene Research, 2003, 32(4): 322-326.
[王茂起, 王竹天, 冉陆 等. 2000~2001年中国食品污染物监测研究. 卫生研究, 2003, 32(4): 322-326.]

[10] Cai Yixin, Jue Shaocong, Hua Yongyou. The backgrounds and distributing analysis of lead, arsenic and cadmium of vegetables from Fujian Province. Hygiene Research, 2004, 33(4): 500-501.
[蔡一新, 阙少聪, 华永有. 福建省蔬菜中铅、砷、镉含量背景值与分布分析. 卫生研究, 2004, 33(4): 500-501.]

[11] Yu Xiaohui, Yang Yong, Zheng Lihong et al. Research on heavy metals of vegetables collected from markets. Chinese Journal of Public Health Engineering, 2005, 4(1): 25-27.
[余晓辉, 杨勇, 郑丽红 等. 部分市售食品金属污染物调查. 中国卫生工程学, 2005, 4(1): 25-27.]

[12] Ma Wangxiao, Zhou Le, Duan Min et al. Analysis of heavy metal of vegetables from Xi'an. Journal of Northwest Science Technology University of Agriculture and Forest (Natural Science Edition), 2003, 31(6): 178-180.
[马往校, 周乐, 段敏 等. 西安市蔬菜中重金属污染状况分析. 西北农林科技大学学报 (自然科学版), 2003, 31(6): 178-180.]

[13] Zhou Ridong, Wu Huigang, Huang Cheng et al. Research on mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic and chromium of vegetables from markets of Zhongshan City, China. Chinese Journal of Health Laboratory Technology, 2002, 12(5): 582-583.
[周日东, 吴惠刚, 黄诚 等. 中山市市售蔬菜中汞、铅、镉、砷、铬含量调查. 中国卫生检验杂志, 2002, 12(5): 582-583.]

[14] Roychowdhury T, Uchino T, Tokunaga H et al. Survey of arsenic in food composites from an arsenic-affected area of West Bengal, India. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2002, 40: 1611-1621.

[15] Al Rmallia S W, Harisa P I, Harringtonb C F et al. A survey of arsenic in foodstuffs on sale in the United Kingdom and imported from Bangladesh. The Science of the Total Environment, 2005, 337: 23-30.

[16] Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics. Beijing Statistical Yearbook, 2002. Beijing: China Statistics Press, 2002. 72; 173.
[北京市统计局. 2002 北京统计年鉴. 北京: 中国统计出版社, 2002. 72; 173.]

[17] Liu Mingchi. The present state and perspectives on the vegetables planting of Beijing. Journal of Beijing Agricultural Sciences, 2002, 20(1): 1-4.
[刘明池. 关于首都蔬菜生产现状和发展的思考. 北京农业科学, 2002, 20(1): 1-4.]

[18] Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Acid digestion of sediments sludge and soils. USEPA 3050B. http://www.epa.gov/SW-846/pdfs/3050b.pdf. Revision 2, 1996, 1-12.

[19] Yang Huifen, Li Mingyuan, Shen Wen. Handbook of Physicochemical Test Standards on Food Hygiene. Beijing: Standards Press of China, 1997. 92-94.
[杨惠芬, 李明元, 沈文. 食品卫生理化检验标准手册. 北京: 中国标准出版社, 1997. 92-94.]

[20] GB/T 5009.11-1996, Determination of Total Arsenic in Foods. Beijing: Standards Press of China, 1996.
[GB/T 5009.11-1996, 食品中总砷的测定方法. 北京: 中国标准出版社, 1996.]

[21] Chen Tongbin, Zheng Yuanming, Chen Huang et al. Background concentrations of soils heavy metal in Beijing. Environmental Science, 2004, 25(1): 117-122.
[陈同斌, 郑袁明, 陈煌 等. 北京市土壤重金属含量背景值的系统研究. 环境科学, 2004, 25(1): 117-122.]

[22] GB4810-94. Tolerance Limit of Arsenic in Foods. Beijing: Standards Press of China, 1994.
[GB4810-94, 食品中砷限量卫生标准. 北京: 中国标准出版社, 1994.]

[23] Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics. Beijing Statistical Yearbook, 2004. Beijing: China Statistics Press, 2004. 219.
[北京市统计局. 2004 北京统计年鉴. 北京: 中国统计出版社, 2004. 219.]

[24] Chen Tongbin, Wei Chaoyang, Huang Zechun et al. Arsenic hyperaccumulator Pteris vittata L. and its arsenic accumulation. Chinese Science Bulletin, 2002, 47(3): 207-210.
[陈同斌, 韦朝阳, 黄泽春 等. 砷超富集植物蜈蚣草及其对砷的富集特征. 科学通报, 2002, 47(3): 207-210.]

[25] Cai Baosong, Chen Tongbin, Liao Xiaoyong et al. Arsenic concentrations in soils and vegetables and their risk assessments in highly contaminated area in Hunan Province. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 2004, 24(4): 711-717.
[蔡保松, 陈同斌, 廖晓勇 等. 土壤砷污染对蔬菜砷含量及食用安全性的影响. 生态学报, 2004, 24(4): 711-717.]

[26] Xia Lijiang, Hua Luo, Wei Dongpu. Arsenic contents in vegetables from several areas. Soils, 1996, (2): 105-110.
[夏立江, 华珞, 韦东普. 部分地区蔬菜中的含砷量. 土壤, 1996, (2): 105-110.]

[27] Li Qilin, Zhao Zhongjin, Huang Yun. Present situation of quality in soils and vegetables of the vegetables bases in suburbs of Chongqing. Environmental Science of Chongqing, 2000, 22(6): 33-37.
[李其林, 赵中金, 黄昀. 重庆市近郊蔬菜基地土壤和蔬菜中重金属的质量现状. 重庆环境科学, 2000, 22(6): 33-37.]

[28] Jiao Li, Ye Xuhong, Hu Qinhai et al. Heavy metal content research of vegetable in Hangzhou vegetable base. Environment Pollution and Protection, 2003, 25(4): 248-249.
[焦荔, 叶旭红, 胡勤海 等. 杭州市区蔬菜基地蔬菜重金属含量研究. 环境污染与防治, 2003, 25(4): 248-249.]

[29] Luo Xiaomei, Zhang Yirong, Yang Dingqing. Pollution analysis and assessment of heavy metals in vegetables from Chengdu. Sichuan Environment, 2003, 22(2): 49-51.
[罗晓梅, 张义蓉, 杨定清. 成都地区蔬菜中重金属污染分析与评价. 四川环境, 2003, 22(2): 49-51.]

[30] Wang Yulian, Liu Bing, Liu Qun. The present situation of chemical pollutant on vegetables in the summer and the preventing measures. Journal of Shandong Agricultural University (Natural Science Edition), 2004, 35(2): 191-195.
[王玉莲, 刘冰, 刘群. 泰安市夏季蔬菜中化学污染物污染状况及预防控制措施的研究. 山东农业大学学报(自然科学版), 2004, 35(2): 191-195.]

[31] Liang Chunsui, Deng Feng, Huang Weixiong et al. Network monitoring and dynamic analysis of chemical contaminants in agricultural products in Guangdong. Chinese Journal of Food Hygiene, 2003, 15(5): 395-401.
[梁春穗, 邓峰, 黄伟雄 等. 广东省食物中化学污染物的网点监测与动态分析. 中国食品卫生杂志, 2003, 15(5): 395-401.]

[32] Jasenka S P, Davorin B C, Helena K. Estimation of dietary intake of arsenic in the general population of the Republic of Croatia. The Science of the Total Environment, 1996, 191: 119-123.

[33] Pu Chaowen, Xiong Xiangzhong, Cao Yong et al. Analysis on arsenic content in of food and drinking water in the area of Three Gorge Project. Journal of Preventive Medicine Information, 2001, 17(6): 429-430.
[蒲朝文, 熊祥忠, 曹勇 等. 三峡地区食物及饮用水砷含量调查. 预防医学情报杂志, 2001, 17(6): 429-430.]

[34] Zhang Zhuqing, Yang Yuhua. The present state and influence factors of heavy metal and arsenic pollution in Jingzhou city, Hubei Province. Journal of Hubei Agricultural College, 2001, 21(2): 141-143.
[张竹青, 杨玉华. 荆州市蔬菜重金属和砷污染现状及影响因素. 湖北农学院学报, 2001, 21(2): 141-143.]

[35] Xie Hua, Liao Xiaoyong, Chen Tongbin et al. Arsenic in plants of farm land and its healthy risk, Chenzhou City, Hunan Province. Geographical Research, 2005, 24(1): 151-159.
[谢华, 廖晓勇, 陈同斌 等. 污染农田中植物的砷含量及其健康风险评估. 地理研究, 2005, 24(1): 151-159.]

[36] Ociel M, Oscar P D, Irma L et al. Vegetables collected in the cultivated Andean area of northern Chile: total and inorganic arsenic contents in raw vegetables. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2002, 50: 642-647.

[37] Zhang Lei, Gao Junquan. Comparison of the quantity of harmful elements in dietary of China with several developed countries. Journal of Hygiene Research, 2003, 32(3): 268-271.
[张磊, 高俊全. 中国与一些发达国家膳食有害元素摄入状况比较. 卫生研究, 2003, 32(3): 268-271.]

[38] Oscar P D, Irma L, Ociel M et al. Contribution of water, bread, and vegetables (raw and cooked) to dietary intake of inorganic arsenic in a rural village of northern Chile. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2004, 52: 1773-1779.

[39] Dante D C, Paulina P, Nestor M et al. Exposure to inorganic arsenic in drinking water and total urinary arsenic concentration in a Chilean population. Environmental Research, 2005, 98(2): 151-159.

[40] Kris C. The arsenic threat worsens. Environmental Science & Technology, 2001, 35(13): 286-291.