A systematic risk characterisation related to the dietary exposure of the population to potentially toxic elements through the ingestion of fruit and vegetables from a potentially contaminated area. A case study: The issue of the “Land of Fires” area in Campania region, Italy

Potentially toxic elements are widespread soil contaminants, whose occurrence could entail a concern for human health upon ingestion of fruit and vegetables harvested in a polluted area. This study set out to evaluate the concentrations of lead and cadmium as well as the levels of thirteen heavy metals for which a limit value is yet to be established by the food safety authorities, in order to perform a risk characterisation related to the dietary intake of these metals and to provide a scientific opinion with wider relevance in the light of current worldwide regulatory issues. The sampling consisted of fruit and vegetables grown in a potentially contaminated area of southern Italy due to the illegal dump of hazardous wastes. An evaluation of the dietary exposure through the calculation of the Hazard Index (HI), the Maximum Cumulative Ratio (MCR) and the Target Cancer Risk (TCR) was adopted to this end. The results revealed that about the 30% of samples showed quantifiable levels of chemicals and no significant difference emerged between the potentially polluted area and the nearby cities that were selected as a control landfill site. The overall risk characterisation for non-carcinogenic endpoints showed that the HI did not reach unsafe values, except for a small number of samples mainly because of aberrant occurrences and, in any case, the cumulative toxicity was mainly driven by thallium and vanadium. As far as the carcinogenic effects of arsenic are concerned, the distribution of TCR values broadly lay below the safety threshold; a certain percentage of data, however, exceeded this limit and should be taken into account for the enforcement of future regulatory thresholds.

Authors: Esposito F, Nardone A, Fasano E, Scognamiglio G, Esposito D, Agrelli D, Ottaiano L, Fagnano M, Adamo P, Beccaloni E, Vanni F, Cirillo T. ; Full Source: Environmental Pollution. 2018 Dec; 243(Pt B):1781-1790. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2018.09.058. Epub 2018 Sep 15.