Occurrence, contamination evaluation and health risks of trace metals within soil, sediments and tailings in southern Tunisia

Khelifi F., Mokadem N., Liu G., Yousaf B., Zhou H., Ncibi K., ...More

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, vol.19, no.7, pp.6127-6140, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 19 Issue: 7
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s13762-021-03531-8
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Aqualine, Aquatic Science & Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA), Biotechnology Research Abstracts, CAB Abstracts, Compendex, Environment Index, Geobase, INSPEC, Pollution Abstracts, Veterinary Science Database
  • Page Numbers: pp.6127-6140
  • Keywords: Mining area, Heavy metals, Contamination assessment, Health risks, Southern Tunisia, HEAVY-METALS, MINING BASIN, POLLUTION, MANGANESE, CHROMIUM, INDEX, PB
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The current study highlights the impacts of mining and ore processing activities on the environment and human health in a south Mediterranean area of southern Tunisia. A geochemical characterization was achieved by analyzing urban soil, stream sediments, mine wastes (tailings, sludge) and phosphate ore, for trace metals "TM" (Cd, Cr, Zn, Mn) have revealed that the samples are highly enriched with metals. An evaluation of the contamination status was attained by calculating pollution indices. Results showed that samples are ranging between moderately and very strongly polluted with TM. Human health risk was evaluated by calculating hazard quotient (HQ), total non-carcinogenic risk (NCR) expressed as hazard index (HI) and carcinogenic risk (CR). The non-carcinogenic risk (NCR) did not exceed the established threshold (NCR > 1) in all studied cases (age or gender based). Thus, local residents of the study area are likely far from developing non-carcinogenic diseases arising from TM exposure. Conversely, CR did exceed the proposed standards (CR > 10(-4)) in some cases. Accordingly, there is a carcinogenic risk associated with children's exposure to Cr. Globally, our findings prove that children of Gafsa-Metlaoui mining area are more vulnerable to TM contamination than adults could develop health complications. To a lesser extent, females are also more vulnerable than males in the concerned area. In order to eliminate any potential health risks, waste management's legislation should be established in Tunisia and similar areas worldwide (open cast-mining, abandoned mine sites, etc.) to control and mitigate the effects of mining and industrial activities on the environment and the human health.