Distribution and health risk assessment of heavy metals in soil surrounding a lead and zinc smelting plant in Zanjan, Iran

One of the problematic issues in soil pollution studies is heavy metal particles which are produced by mines and smelting units and spread through wind action and/or runoff. Pollution and health risk assessment of cadmium, lead, zinc, copper, and nickel in soil around the lead and zinc smelting factory was carried out in Zanjan City, Iran. Contamination factor (Cf), pollution load index (PLI), geoaccumulation index (Igeo), hazard quotient (HQ), hazard index (HI), and carcinogenic risk were pollution and human health risk assessment metrics in this study. Based on the Iranian soil guideline value, soil samples in the studied areas were contaminated the least by copper and nickel and the most by cadmium. PLI results showed that soils near the production line were heavily or extremely heavily polluted. The results of Cf and Igeo showed that lead and zinc were the most important contaminants. Health risk assessment indicated that lead and cadmium in soil were the main contaminants, which pose both carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risks to human health; carcinogenic risk levels were unacceptably high (above 1 × 10−4). It can be concluded that mining and smelting activities degrade soil quality in this region and the soil pollution might be extended to farming areas.