Risk assessment of potentially toxic elements in agricultural soils and maize tissues from selected districts in Tanzania

Ernest M. M. Marwa, Andrew A. Meharg, Clive M. Rice

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48 Citations (Scopus)


A field survey was conducted to investigate the contamination of potentially toxic elements (PTEs) arsenic (As). lead (Pb). chromium (Cr). and nickel (Ni) in Tanzanian agricultural soils and to evaluate their uptake and translocation in maize as proxy to the safety of maize used for human and animal consumption. Soils and maize tissues were sampled from 40 farms in Tanzania and analyzed using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry in the United Kingdom. The results showed high levels of PTEs in both soils and maize tissues above the recommended limits. Nickel levels of up to 34.4 and 56.9 mg kg(-1) respectively were found in some maize shoots and grains from several districts. Also, high Pb levels >0.2 mg kg(-1) were found in some grains. The grains and shoots with high levels of Ni and Pb are unfit for human and animal consumption. Concentrations of individual elements in maize tissues and soils did not correlate and showed differences in uptake and translocation. However, Ni showed a more efficient transfer from soils to shoots than As, Pb and Cr. Transfer of Cr and Ni from shoots to grains was higher than other elements, implying that whatever amount is assimilated in maize shoots is efficiently mobilized and transferred to grains. Thus, the study recommended to the public to stop consuming and feeding their animals maize with high levels of PTEs for their safety. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-186
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date5 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2012


  • maize
  • potentially toxic elements
  • soil
  • Tanzania
  • contaminated soils
  • chromium accumulation
  • arsenic uptake
  • higher-plants
  • heavy-metals
  • lead
  • nickel
  • speciation
  • cadmium
  • copper


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