Author(s): ANITA SINGH, RAJESH KUMAR SHARMA, MADHOOLIKA AGRAWAL, FIONA M MARSHALL
In certain areas of Varanasi city, waste water from Dinapur sewage treatment plant is used for irrigating vegetable plots. We quantified the concentrations of heavy metals, viz. Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn in soil, vegetables and the waste water used for irrigation. The waste water used for irrigation had the highest concentration of Zn followed by Pb, Cr, Ni, Cu and Cd. Continuous application of waste water for more than 20 years has led to accumulation of heavy metals in the soil. Consequently, concentrations of Cd, Pb and Ni have crossed the safe limits for human consumption in all the vegetables. Percent contribution of fruit vegetables to daily human intake for Cu, Ni, Pb and Cr was higher than that of leafy vegetables, while the reverse was true for Cd and Zn. Target hazard quotient showed health risk to the local population associated with Cd, Pb and Ni contamination of vegetables. Therefore, to reduce the health risk and the extent of heavy metal contamination, steps must be taken for efficient treatment of sewage. Regular monitoring of heavy metals in the vegetables grown in waste water irrigated areas is also necessary.