Heavy metal pollution is a serious problem worldwide. In this study, 41 soil samples and 32 cabbage samples were collected from the area surrounding the Jinsha coal-fired power plant (JCFP Plant) in Guizhou Province, southwest China. Pb, Cd, Hg, As, Cu and Cr concentrations in soil samples and cabbage samples were analysed to study the pollution sources and risks of heavy metals around the power plant. The results indicate that the JCFP Plant contributes to the Pb, Cd, As, Hg, Cu, and Cr pollution in nearby soils, particularly Hg pollution. Cu and Cr in soils from both croplands and forestlands in the study area derive mainly from crustal materials or natural processes. Pb, Cd and As in soils from croplands arise partly through anthropogenic activities, but these elements in soils from forestlands originate mainly from crustal materials or natural processes. Hg pollution in soils from both croplands and forestlands is caused mainly by fly ash from the JCFP Plant. The cabbages grown in the study area were severely contaminated with heavy metals, and more than 90% of the cabbages had Pb concentrations exceeding the permissible level established by the Ministry of Health and the Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China. Additionally, 30% of the cabbages had As concentrations exceeding the permissible level. Because forests can protect soils from heavy metal pollution caused by atmospheric deposition, close attention should be given to the Hg pollution in soils and to the concentrations of Pb, As, Hg and Cr in vegetables from the study area.
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