To compare the human health risk of heavy metals and As in sewage sludge between adults and children, samples were collected from five wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) located in the urban district of Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi. Heavy metals and As in sewage sludge can be ranked according to the mean concentration in the following order: Cu > Cr > Zn > Pb > As > Hg > Cd. Compared with the concentration limit set by different countries, the heavy metals contents in sewage sludge were all within the standard limits, except for the content of As, which was higher than the threshold limit established by Canada. A health risk assessment recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) was used to compare the non-cancer risk and cancer risk between adults and children. Based on the mean and 95% upper confidence limit (UCL) of the average daily dose (ADD), heavy metals and As can be ranked in the order of Cu > Cr > Zn > Pb > As > Hg > Cd for adults, and Cu > Cr > Zn > Pb > Hg > As > Cd for children. Moreover, results of ADDingest
indicated that ingestion was the main pathway for heavy metals and As exposure for both adults and children, and the sum of ADD implied that the exposure to all heavy metals and As for children was 8.65 and 9.93 times higher, respectively, than that for adults according to the mean and 95% UCL. For the non-carcinogenic risk, according to the hazard quotient (HQ), the risk of Cu, Hg and Cr was higher than the risk of Zn and Pb. The hazard index (HI) for adults was 0.144 and 0.208 for the mean and 95% UCL, which was less than the limit value of 1; for children, the HI was 1.26 and 2.25, which is higher than the limit value of 1. This result indicated that children had non-carcinogenic risk, but adults did not. Furthermore, ingestion was the main pathway for non-carcinogenic risk exposure by the HQingest
. For the carcinogenic risk, Cd and As were classified as carcinogenic pollutants. The values of RISK for the mean and 95% UCL for adults and children all exceeded the limit value of 1 × 10−5
, which implied that adults and children had a carcinogenic risk, and this risk was higher for children than for adults. The results of RISK for As and Cd implied that As was the main pollutant for carcinogenic risk. Moreover, the results of RISKingest
indicated that ingestion was the main pathway. Uncertainty analysis was performed, and the risk ranges of it were greater than certainty analysis, which implied that uncertainty analysis was more conservative than certainty analysis. A comparison of the non-carcinogenic risk and carcinogenic risk for adults and children indicated that children were more sensitive and vulnerable than adults when exposed to the same pollutant in the environment.
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