Lead and cadmium in foods/drinking water from Slovenian market/taps: Estimation of overall chronic dietary exposure and health risks

Approximately 3000 food samples from the Slovenian market and 2500 drinking (tap) water samples in the period 2011 − 2016 were evaluated for the presence of toxic elements lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) and the overall chronic dietary exposure was assessed for each element. The highest mean concentrations were found for Pb in products for special nutritional use – dietary supplements (0.383 mg/kg) and for Cd in fish and seafood (0.117 mg/kg). The consumption data were obtained from the national study of the household budget and from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) summary statistics. Chronic dietary exposure was estimated deterministically. The average Pb and Cd intakes from food and drinking (tap) water ranged for children from 0.90 to 1.021 µg/kg bw/day and 4.65 to 5.65 µg/kg bw/week, respectively, and for adults, including adolescents, from 0.40 to 0.53 µg/kg bw/day and 1.98 to 2.82 µg/kg bw/week, respectively. The high consumption of cereal-based foods and vegetables contributed most to overall Pb and Cd intake in the majority of the age groups. The exposure to Pb was generally lower and that to Cd was higher compared to the average EU values. The most exposed were children, as the health-based guidance values were exceeded for both elements, which indicates a health concern. An important contribution to Cd exposure can be attributed to grains and potatoes grown in Slovenia, where the soil contains more Cd than that in other EU countries. Further efforts to reduce Pb and Cd intake are required to minimize potential health risks.