Print version ISSN 0103-9016
GUERRA, Fernando et al. Heavy metals in vegetables and potential risk for human health. Sci. agric. (Piracicaba, Braz.) [online]. 2012, vol.69, n.1, pp. 54-60. ISSN 0103-9016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0103-90162012000100008.
Ingestion of vegetables containing heavy metals is one of the main ways in which these elements enter the human body. Once entered, heavy metals are deposited in bone and fat tissues, overlapping noble minerals. Slowly released into the body, heavy metals can cause an array of diseases. This study aimed to investigate the concentrations of cadmium, nickel, lead, cobalt and chromium in the most frequently consumed foodstuff in the São Paulo State, Brazil and to compare the heavy metal contents with the permissible limits established by the Brazilian legislation. A value of intake of heavy metals in human diets was also calculated to estimate the risk to human health. Vegetable samples were collected at the São Paulo General Warehousing and Centers Company, and the heavy metal content was determined by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. All sampled vegetables presented average concentrations of Cd and Ni lower than the permissible limits established by the Brazilian legislation. Pb and Cr exceeded the limits in 44 % of the analyzed samples. The Brazilian legislation does not establish a permissible limit for Co contents. Regarding the consumption habit of the population in the São Paulo State, the daily ingestion of heavy metals was below the oral dose of reference, therefore, consumption of these vegetables can be considered safe and without risk to human health.
Keywords : contamination; food chain; potentially toxic element; daily intake; consumption habit.