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Health risks of heavy metals to the general public in Tianjin, China via consumption of vegetables and fish

Consumption of vegetables and fish contaminated with the heavy metals Cu, Zn, Pb, Cd, Hg, and Cr is the most likely route for human exposure in Tianjin, China. Health risks associated with these heavy metals were assessed based on the target hazard quotients (THQs), which can be derived from concentrations of heavy metals in vegetables and fish consumed in four districts (Dong Li, Xi Qing, Jin Nan, and Bei Chen) and the urban area of Tianjin, China.

Individual metal THQ (<1) values indicate the relative absence of health risks associated with intake of a single heavy metal through consumption of either contaminated vegetables or fish only. However, consumption of both vegetables and fish would lead to potential health risks especially for children, since individual THQs for vegetables and fish would sum up to almost 1. If individual THQs resulting from crops consumption are considered, the health risks would be greater for children since the THQ values will always be >1.

Risk contribution from Cr is minimal compared to the other elements. Hg is the major risk contributor for children in Bei Chen since the THQ contribution amounts to about 45% of the total THQ values due to vegetables and fish consumption. The health risk to adults in Ding Li is ascribed mainly to the intake of Cd by vegetables and fish consumption, which contributes a substantial fraction to the total THQ (about 51%).