Investigation of heavy metals and petroleum hydrocarbons pollution source in agricultural lands in the south of Tehran

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Environmental Pollutants, Faculty of Natural Resources, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of Environmental Technologies, Environmental Sciences Research Institute, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran

3 Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Hormozgan, Hormozgan, Iran


Introduction: As a result of human development and population growth, there is a corresponding need for essential resources for humans. Industrial and agricultural activities have greatly polluted most agricultural lands. Petroleum compounds and heavy metals, both are common pollutants of soils that have been irrigated by untreated wastewater, which pose a potential threat to the environment. Soil pollution of the agricultural lands will lead to a decline in cultivation and finally decrease food production. Agricultural lands in the southern part of Tehran are being irrigated with untreated wastewater for more than 30 years to produce a variety of vegetables, legumes, and cereals.
Material and methods: In this study, the concentration of heavy metals and petroleum compounds were determined in 83 sampling points at two depths (0 to 30 and 30 to 60 cm). The study area was divided into two separate zones, in which 44 points were located in zone 2 and 39 points were located in zone 1. Petroleum hydrocarbons and heavy metals, As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, V, and Zn, were measured at the top and subsoil by MOOPAM and ICP-AES methods, respectively. ArcGIS and R software were applied to create distribution maps of the pollutants and some statistical analyses.
Results and discussion: The results showed that the soil of agricultural land in the area is highly polluted, as the concentration of Cr, Pb, Co, and Ni has exceeded the standard level e.g. 0.22 mg/kg for Cd and 620 mg/kg for Pb. The concentration of petroleum compounds in wastewater irrigated lands in both top and subsoil was higher than that of groundwater irrigated lands. High levels of As, Cr, Cu, Pb, and Zn were observed in groundwater irrigated lands compared with wastewater irrigated lands. Cr and Pb were almost 89 and 8 times higher than the standard limit of agricultural lands in Iran, respectively. The spatial distribution map of petroleum compounds showed that only the southeast of the area falls into the heavily contaminated class. The distribution map of heavy metals also revealed that most parts of the studied area fall into the heavily contaminated class. Soil organic matter has more concentration in the topsoil.
Conclusion: Overall, the south of the studied area has been more affected by wastewater irrigation, agrochemicals and groundwater pollution in terms of heavy metals and petroleum compounds. Our study revealed various anthropogenic pollution sources, which are mostly from wastewater irrigation and the application of agrochemicals. Therefore, a management plan should be applied to the agricultural lands of this region to control and reduce the level of contamination.


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