Investigation of the concentration and health effects of heavy metals released from the industrial units of Naji Industrial Town

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Tabriz, Tabriz, Iran

2 Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, University of Zanjan, Zanjan, Iran

3 Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Zanjan, Zanjan, Iran


Introduction: Today, with the expansion of the activity of industrial units, the concentration of pollutants in the air has increased and humans are exposed to them through inhalation, ingestion, and dermal absorption. Among all pollutants, heavy metals have received a great deal of attention from environmentalists due to their toxic nature. High concentrations of heavy metals in the environment can increase the risk of adverse effects on human health. Activity of copper casting units and its alloys made Naji Industrial Town of Zanjan as a main source of heavy metals in the atmosphere; therefore, evaluating the concentration and health effects of heavy metals emitted from the town is of particular importance.
Material and methods: To evaluate the concentration and health effects of heavy metals emission from the industrial units of Naji Industrial Town, sampling of total suspended particles in the town and its adjacent areas (10 stations) was performed in January and May 2021. Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) was used to identify heavy metals. The risk of cancer and non-cancerous diseases due to respiration, ingestion and skin absorption of heavy metals in total suspended particles was also evaluated for both age groups of children and adults.
Results and discussion: In this analysis heavy metals e.g. silver, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, antimony, vanadium and zinc were identified. The concentrations of detected heavy metals were compared with national ambient air quality standards. The concentration of chromium and iron in all stations within Naji Industrial Town was higher than the standard level. Also, the concentrations of silver, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, antimony, vanadium, and zinc in all stations adjacent to the Industrial Town was higher than the standard. The results of assessing the risk of non-cancerous diseases by exposure to heavy metals in total suspended particles, both in winter and spring, showed that exposure to heavy metals in all stations does not pose a risk to public health. The highest risk of cancer in winter and spring was due to exposure to the arsenic (at station 2, inside the industrial town) and cadmium (at station 4, inside the industrial town), respectively. In spring, the risk of cancer due to exposure to arsenic and cadmium was higher in all stations except station 2 than in winter. However, in the spring, the risk of cancer in all stations was lower than in the winter. The risk index values for the age group of children ​​were higher than the age group of adults; therefore, children are more at risk for various types of cancer and non-cancerous diseases while exposing to heavy metals in the air.
Conclusion: The results of the assessment of exposure to heavy metals released from Naji Industrial Town on human health show that the risk of non-cancerous diseases does not threaten the people of the study area; but the risk of cancer caused by the arsenic and cadmium is high at most of the surveyed stations.


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