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Exposure Assessment of Heavy Metals Resulting from Farmland Application of Wastewater Sludge in Tianjin, China: The Examination of Two Existing National Standards for Soil and Farmland-Used Sludge

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Land application is one of the major methods of managing municipal sludge in China. The sludge is used for fertilizing and conditioning soil, but due to the high concentration of heavy metals and other chemicals that it contains, improper use of sludge will lead to the contamination of farmland soil. To provide guidance on the application of sludge in China, the Control Standards for Pollutants in Sludge for Agricultural Use (CSPSAU) were enacted, and implemented in 1985. Afterwards, the National Environment Quality Standards for Soil (NEQSS) were also formulated and put into effect in 1996. In this article, these two national standards were examined by means of exposure assessment. The main exposure pathway to humans that was considered was dietary intake of crops grown on the sludge-applied farmland. Five major types of agricultural crops (rice, wheat, tuber roots, vegetables, and fruits) and three groups of exposure population (the urban individual group, the rural sludge-applying individual group, and the rural sludge nonapplying individual group) were assessed. This case study in Tianjin, China, shows the necessity of reexamining the national standards of the CSPSAU and the NEQSS in the context of risk assessment. More comprehensive surveys and monitoring programs assessing heavy metals contained in farmland soils and crop tissues will be necessary for examining the risks to human health.

Keywords: Wastewater sludge; exposure assessment; heavy metals; land application

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan., 2: Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Publication date: October 1, 2000


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