Evaluating the Potential of Plants (leaves) in Removal of Toxic Metals from Urban Soils (Case Study of a District in Tehran City)

Document Type : Original Research Paper


1 Faculty of Natural Resources & Environment, Science & Research branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of Environmental Planning, Management and Education, School of Environment, College of Engineering, University of Tehran, Iran

3 Department of Environmental Engineering, School of Environment, College of Engineering, University of Tehran, Iran


Urban soil pollution has become a major concern in megacities around the world. Due to their non-degradable characteristic, toxic metals are among the most notorious pollutants. In this study determination of total and bioavailable fraction of toxic metals Ni, Cu, Cr, Zn, Co, Cd, Pb and Mn, in surface soils of district 16th in Tehran municipality is considered. Furthermore, metals uptake potential of a variety of endemic plants is also investigated. Forty one surface soil samples and eleven composite leaf samples were collected within the study area in winter 2015. Except for Cd and Pb, other toxic metals showed generally lower concentrations in comparison with shale and mean earth crust values. Intensified traffic load within the district may be considered as the main reason for such augmented concentrations. The order of bioavailable fraction from total metal concentrations detected to be as: Zn(2.78%) > Cd(2.71%) > Co(1.92%) > Mn(1.79%) > Cu(1.59%) > Pb(.89%) > Ni(.7%) > Cr(.4%). Concentration of different metals in leaf samples revealed that berry, eucalyptus, plane and acacia are more capable in comparison with others in translocating toxic metals from soil. Paying more attention to pollution removal capability of urban plants may play a key role in sustainable municipal management of megacities like Tehran.


Afkhami, F., Karbassi, A. R., Nasrabadi, T. and Vosoogh, A. (2013). Impact of oil excavation activities on soil metallic pollution, case study of an Iran southern oil field. Environmental earth sciences, 70(3), 1219-1224.
Alloway, B.J. (1995). Heavy metals in soils, Blackie Academic & Professional, London (2nd ed.)
Bi, X., Liang, S. and Li, X. (2013). Trace metals in soil, dust, and tree leaves of the urban environment, Guangzhou, China. Chinese Science Bulletin, 58(2), 222-230.
Chandrasekhar, C. and Ray, J. G. (2019). Lead accumulation, growth responses and biochemical changes of three plant species exposed to soil amended with different concentrations of lead nitrate. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 171, 26-36.
Davison, A. W. (1971). The effects of de-icing salt on roadside verges. I. Soil and plant analysis. Journal of Applied Ecology, 555-561.
Eghbal, N., Nasrabadi, T., Karbassi, A. and Taghavi, L. (2018). Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13762-018-2076-1
Estrabou, C., Filippini, E., Soria, J. P., Schelotto, G. and Rodriguez, J. M. (2011). Air quality monitoring system using lichens as bioindicators in Central Argentina. Environmental monitoring and assessment, 182(1-4), 375-383.
Fazeli, G., Karbassi, A. R., Khoramnejadian, Sh. and Nasrabadi, T. (2018). Anthropogenic share of metal contents in soils of urban areas. Pollution, 4(4), 697-706.
Findlay, S. E. and Kelly, V. R. (2011). Emerging indirect and long‐term road salt effects on ecosystems. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1223(1), 58-68.
Feng, M. H., Shan, X. Q., Zhang, S. and Wen, B. (2005). A comparison of the rhizosphere-based method with DTPA, EDTA, CaCl2, and NaNO3 extraction methods for prediction of bioavailability of metals in soil to barley. Environmental Pollution, 137(2), 231-240.
Hosseini Alhashemi, A.S., Karbassi, A.R., Hassanzadeh Kiabi, B., Monavari, S.M. and Nabavi, S.M.B. (2011). Accumulation and bioaccessibility of trace elements in wetland sediments. Afr J Biotechnol 10(9):1625–1636.
Jiang, M., Liu, S., Li, Y., Li, X., Luo, Z., Song, H. and Chen, Q. (2019). EDTA-facilitated toxic tolerance, absorption and translocation and phytoremediation of lead by dwarf bamboos. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 170, 502-512.
Karbassi, A., Nasrabadi, T., Rezai, M. and Modabberi, S. (2014). Pollution with metals (As, Sb, Hg, Zn) in agricultural soil located close to Zarshuran gold mine, Iran. Environmental Engineering and Management Journal, 13(1), 115-122.
Li, X., Lee, S. L., Wong, S. C., Shi, W. and Thornton, I. (2004). The study of metal contamination in urban soils of Hong Kong using a GIS-based approach. Environmental Pollution, 129(1), 113-124.
Luo, C., Liu, C., Wang, Y., Liu, X., Li, F. Zhang, G., and Li, X. (2011). Heavy metal contamination in soils and vegetables near an e-waste processing site, south China. Journal of hazardous materials, 186(1), 481-490.
Mehrdadi, N., Nabi Bidhendi, G. R., Nasrabadi, T., Hoveidi, H., Amjadi, M. and Shojaee, M. A. (2009). Monitoring the arsenic concentration in groundwater resources, case study: Ghezel ozan water basin, Kurdistan, Iran. Asian journal of chemistry, 21(1), 446-450.
Nasrabadi, T., Ruegner, H., Sirdari, Z. Z., Schwientek, M. and Grathwohl, P. (2016). Using total suspended solids (TSS) and turbidity as proxies for evaluation of metal transport in river water. Applied Geochemistry, 68, 1-9.
Nasrabadi, T., Nabi Bidhendi, G.R., Karbassi, A.R. Mehrdadi, N. (2010). Evaluating the efficiency of sediment metal pollution indices in interpreting the pollution of Haraz River sediments, southern Caspian Sea basin. Environ Monit Assess 171(1-4):395-410.
Ogbonna, C. E., Enete, C. I., Egedeuzu, C. S. and Ogbochi, F. (2013). Heavy metal concentration in leaves of roadside trees in Umuahia Urban, South East Nigeria. Resources and Environment, 3(5), 141-144.
Peijnenburg, W. J. G. M. and Jager, T. (2003). Monitoring approaches to assess bioaccessibility and bioavailability of metals: matrix issues. Ecotoxicology and environmental safety, 56(1), 63-77.
Singh, J. and Kalamdhad, A. S. (2011). Effects of heavy metals on soil, plants, human health and aquatic life. International journal of Research in Chemistry and Environment, 1(2), 15-21.
Singh, M., Goel, P. and Singh, A. K. (2005). Biomonitoring of lead in atmospheric environment of an urban center of the Ganga Plain, India. Environmental monitoring and assessment, 107(1-3), 101-114.
Smolders, E., Oorts, K., Van Sprang, P., Schoeters, I., Janssen, C. R., McGrath, S. P. and McLaughlin, M. J. (2009). Toxicity of trace metals in soil as affected by soil type and aging after contamination: using calibrated bioavailability models to set ecological soil standards. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 28(8), 1633-1642.
Tomašević, M., Rajšić, S., Đorđević, D., Tasić, M., Krstić, J. and Novaković, V. (2004). Heavy metals accumulation in tree leaves from urban areas. Environmental Chemistry Letters, 2(3), 151-154.
Tomaševič, M., Vukmirovič, Z., Rajšič, S., Tasič, M. and Stevanovič, B. (2008). Contribution to biomonitoring of some trace metals by deciduous tree leaves in urban areas. Environmental monitoring and assessment, 137(1-3), 393.
Turekian, K.K. and Wedepohl, K.H. (1961). Distribution of the elements in some major units of Earth’s crust. Bull Geol Soc Am 72:175–192.
Wei, B. and Yang, L. (2010). A review of heavy metal contaminations in urban soils, urban road dusts and agricultural soils from China. Microchemical journal, 94(2), 99-107.
Yu, S., Zhu, Y. G. and Li, X. D. (2012). Trace metal contamination in urban soils of China. Science of the total environment, 421, 17-30.