Human exposure risk to heavy metals through groundwater used for drinking in an intensively irrigated river delta uri icon

abstract

  • Drinking water containing heavy metals above the maximum permissible limits cause potential risk to human health. The aim of this study was to determine the groundwater suitability for drinking use based on heavy metal concentration and the associated human exposure risk in an intensively irrigated part of the Cauvery river basin, Tamil Nadu, India. Sixteen heavy metals analysed were in the order of dominance of chromium < zinc < copper < cadmium < cobalt < iron < aluminium < nickel < titanium < zirconium < boron < silver < manganese < lead < lithium < silicon in groundwater. Chromium and zinc were within permissible limits of the Bureau of Indian Standards for drinking water quality, and silver, lead and nickel were above limits in all the groundwater samples. In less than 50 % of the groundwater samples, aluminium, boron, cadmium, copper, iron and manganese exceeded their individual permissible limits. Heavy metal pollution index based on 11 heavy metals indicated that groundwater quality of this area is poor-to-unsuitable. Non-carcinogenic risk for humans due to ingestion of groundwater through drinking water pathway was very high for infants, children and adults. Silver, lead, nickel, cadmium and manganese largely contributed to the health hazard. Sources of heavy metals were identified to be geological and from human activities, i.e., application of fertilizers in agricultural fields, seawater intrusion due to intensive pumping for agriculture and wastewater from industries. Groundwater and surface water in this area pose large threat due to high levels of heavy metals, and it is necessary to avoid this water for drinking due to potential risk of health hazard. This study also demonstrated the application of HPI and human exposure hazard index to study the groundwater quality based on heavy metals' concentration.

publication date

  • 2017
  • 2017