Heavy Metal Pollution in Soils and Vegetables from Suburban Regions of Nairobi, Kenya and their Community Health Implications

Document Type : Original Research Paper


Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, University of Johannesburg, PO Box 524, Auckland Park, 2006, Johannesburg, South Africa


This study aimed at quantifying the heavy metal levels in soils and vegetables sampled from five suburban regions of Nairobi, Kenya. Using inductively coupled plasma- mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) the metals were quantified from the samples. The assayed heavy metals including Cd, Cr, Co. Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Zn and the metalloid arsenic were elevated beyond the reference values in both soils and vegetables. High pollutant levels in soils were affiliated to use of industrial and domestic wastewater for irrigation, application of heavy metal containing agrochemicals and geogenic sources of the pollutants. In collard leaves, the uptake of contaminated water via the roots and subsequent accumulation in the leaves was attributable to the observed results. The total hazard quotient (THQ) and hazard index (HI) as a result of arsenic and Hg was >1 in all sampled sites and >10, respectively for both indices and heavy metals. Similarly, the cancer risk (CR) and target cancer risk (TCR) from consumption of collard was greater than the recommended levels of 10-6 and 10-4, respectively with exception of Pb. The indices were indicative of negative non-carcinogenic and carcinogenic effects of consuming the vegetables to the community of the study area. The results of the study, though preliminary, suggest the need to safeguard the health of communities in the study area to ensure that they do not consume heavy metal contaminated vegetables due to the established health effects of such pollutants. 


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